Ask Mr. Wizard

Boiling Off the Alcohol In Beer


Chris Patterson — Downers Grove, Illinois asks,

In an article by John Naleszkiewicz in the October 1995 issue of BYO, he reviewed a method of removing the alcohol after fermentation by heating the beer in an oven at 180 °F (82 °C). Is there any risk of fire with this method?


Wow! Talk about a blast from the past and a reminder of how brewing trends often slowly develop. The topic of no-alcohol and low-alcohol beers is certainly gaining traction in the world of craft beer as consumer trends are pulling breweries in new directions. Depending on the conditions, enough alcohol vapor could conceivably accumulate in an oven containing a pot of beer to create a combustible atmosphere, but it’s pretty unlikely.

A much more likely scenario, however, is really gnarly beer remaining in the oven following this process. Even if an oven-based process was designed to eliminate oxygen from the beer, the beer would certainly develop cooked flavors because batch distillation like this requires long exposure to heat. In the September 2022 issue of BYO, I covered several methods currently used to produce low-alcohol and no-alcohol beers. The “Advanced Brewing” column in the October 2022 issue also covers the topic. I recommend giving those both a read.

My usual view on homebrewing methods is to go with the flow and embrace the free-spirited innovators who make homebrewing so vibrant. In this case, however, I suggest more nuanced methods to the pursuit of low/no-alcohol brews than the oven treatment.

Response by Ashton Lewis.