NA concerns-Non alcoholic beer experiments

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George

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For a number of reasons, I have become interested in brewing my own non alcoholic beers. I should clarify that when I say NA, I am talking about the legal limit of 0.5%.
I've brewed six of them. The first two were actually above that, the last four were right on target.
My approach was to simply reduce the grain bill to an OG of 1.012 and ferment. In five gallons that worked out to 1 pound of base malt, 1.5 pounds cara, and .5 pound crystal/caramel. It's worked well, but I want to now brew actual NA beer at 0%.
My plan is to eliminate the base malt, conduct a normal boil with normal hop additions, chill as normal, but skip the addition of yeast and thereby fermentation. Chilled wort goes into sanitized "fermenter" for settling. Transfer clear wort to sanitized keg. Carbonation will be forced in kegs.
My concern is related to food safety, botulism specifically.
My previous working assumption was that alcohol, in conjunction with a good sanitation regimen, keeps myself and those I share my beers with safe.
I obviously no longer have the protection of alcohol.
What I think that I know is that "canning" yeast starter wort can pose a botulism threat if one does not can the 1.040 wort under pressure at something like 250 F. An alternative is to adjust pH to 4.3 or below with phosphoric or lactic acid.
What I assume is that a 1.008 wort that is highly non-fermentable to beer yeast should be way less likely to support Clostridium botulinum. But I do not know that to be a fact.
I could use acid to lower the pH, but would prefer to enjoy my "beers" at the more traditional 5.2+ pH level.
Oddly, I did not worry about this when I was making 0.5% beer. It was my wife that brought it up when I was about to store a quart of kettle losses in a mason jar.
Does anyone here know, for certain, about these things?
 

Vale71

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The LD50 for botulinum toxin is 1 nanogram per kilogram of body weight so I'd say even a low OG wort has the potential to reach lethal levels if infected.
The "traditional" beer PH actually lies between 4.0 and 4.4. The 5.2 you quote is for unfermented wort.
Besides the serious health concerns the second biggest issue will be that the resulting beverage will not taste like anything even remotely resembling beer but if you're happy drinking your malt drink and find a way to package it that does prevent food poisoning as well as spontaneous fermentation (while the former is quite rare you're pretty much guaranteed the latter unless you at least pasteurize) then go for it.
 
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George

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That’s exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping for. Thank you.
As far as the tasting, or not tasting, like beer, I’m not so concerned with that.
I’m happy to go through the enjoyable brewing experience, even if the end product is not what I had expected. For me, that’s part of the experimental aspect of this hobby.
The concern is strictly a safety one. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I had previously tested only one finished beer’s pH. That was an anomaly because it was a sour, or something similar, that was excessively tart. I was curious what it’s pH was.
So after reading this first reply, I tested a commercial imperial ipa. Wow, 4.52. I had no idea that finished beer would be that acidic.
I think that I may proceed by lowering my “beer” to 4.3 using phosphoric acid after doing more research that that is, in fact, a botulism safe level.
 

Vale71

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It is indeed the low PH of beer that makes it safe from botulism and other microbiological agents and not the alcohol or the hops. Unfermented, non acidified wort unfortunately still has too high a PH value which is the main reason why it must be processed ASAP, either fermented or pasteurized. That and the abundance of simple sugars, of course.
As far as preventing a spontaneous fermentation/spoilage after packaging since you mentioned kegging I believe the best option would be to transfer the hot wort right after flameout to the keg and letting it naturally cool in the sealed keg also leaving the keg connected to CO2 all the time to prevent a vacuum from forming. This wil also give you a head start on forced carbonation. In this way both the wort and the package (keg) should be sufficiently pasteurized and if the keg stays sealed all the time this (together with acidification) should prevent spoilage within a reasonable time frame.
 

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