This Is The World's Oldest Non-Alcoholic Beer Brand

Humans have been making beer for a long time. According to World History, evidence suggests the fermented beverage was brewed in China as far back as 7000 B.C. and in Mesopotamia dating back to at least 3000 B.C. Beer has been around for a minimum of 9,000 years. Estimates suggest it may be even older.

The history of non-alcoholic beer, meanwhile, is considerably shorter. The first non-alcoholic beers were developed during Prohibition, notes Gizmodo, when the production and sale of alcohol were outlawed in the U.S. In fact, the legal thresholds established for non-alcoholic beer (0.5% ABV or less) during the Prohibition era (between 1919 to 1933) are still in use today. 

At that time, however, non-alcoholic beers were made by traditional breweries in place of the alcohol-laced versions they had previously been allowed to produce. There weren't any non-alcoholic beer brands in existence.

The first dedicated non-alcoholic beer brand wasn't established until the 1970s, observes Difford's Guide, and it took several years to fully develop the concept and refine production methods.

How non-alcoholic beer was developed

The German brand Clausthaler began developing its non-alcoholic beer in 1972, according to the company's website. However, the beer wasn't ready for launch until 1979, notes Difford's Guide. The seven-year incubation period was the result of trial and error in attempting to make a product with the full-rich taste of a conventional beer but with a far lower alcohol content (via Steady Drinker). Clausthaler is made with a typical beer yeast, after all, and it meets traditional German purity laws. Yet it contains only 0.45% ABV.

The company's innovative solution to making a non-alcoholic beer ultimately became known as Clausthaler's Controlled Fermentation. The name references the process of stopping fermentation prior to the development of alcohol. Clausthaler was the first brand to dedicate itself to the non-alcoholic beer market, and as Deutsches Bier points out, it enjoyed early success with German workers, who found they could drink beer at lunch with no decline in afternoon productivity.

To say the non-alcoholic beer market has grown in the forty-three years since Clausthaler's initial launch is a bit of an understatement. The worldwide market exceeded $16 billion dollars in 2021 and is projected to pass $23 billion by 2025 (as per Business Wire). 

In the U.S., meanwhile, sales of non-alcoholic beer topped $328 million last year, reports NielsenIQ. Despite the increased competition, however, Clausthaler remains one of the best-selling brands, and it is currently available in over 50 countries around the world (via  VinePair).