Non-alcoholic homebrew - buzzed feeling?

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Mar 4, 2024
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Hi all, I am a homebrewer with several years of experience making all-grain beer but I am attempting to heavily reduce alcohol consumption and new to the challenge of making non-alcoholic beer (<0.5% ABV).

I tried to make a non-alcoholic oatmeal stout, essentially by only brewing with oatmeal and specialty grains (no 2 row or other base malts). Well I will say that taste wise my experiment was a success, the result was better tasting with no unfermented wort flavors like many commercial NA stouts. And the ABV was quite low, around 0.13%, I only dropped one SG point. Which gives me room to add more oatmeal next time while keeping ABV low.

The weird part comes in when drinking my NA homebrew, I get a little heady euphoric feeling like an alcohol buzz without the impairment. It doesn't last long, maybe 30 minutes? I have tried many, many commercial NA offerings and never got this feeling, so I think it's fair to rule out a placebo effect. I had a buddy try my NA homebrew and he experienced the same thing, asked me if I was sure there wasn't alcohol in it.

Not sure if anyone on here does NA homebrew or can maybe explain this phenomenon. Here's some more info on stuff I tried to rule out:

- OG 1.014, FG 1.013. Both taken at room temp. Tested my hydrometer in local tap water 1.002. Has worked fine for years of "alcoholic" homebrewing.

- Used phosphate buffers to lower post-boil pH to around 5. Post fermentation pH is in the 4-4.5 range, using strips I've tested on a bunch of stuff and seem pretty accurate. I would think this makes infection unlikely (and there's no off flavors/aromas).

- Primary fermentation 10 days, force carbed and been in keg about 2 weeks at this point.

- Room fermentation temp was 60-65F during primary, I'm aware the vessel could be higher but I'd think the fact that little ethanol was produced means there's not an appreciable amount of fusels either... happy to be proven wrong on this.

I have seen some scant information on this possibly being a B vitamin sensitivity, triggered by the yeast in the homebrew being rich in B vitamins. Which could perhaps be the missing link between my homebrew which is unfiltered, and I have yet to see/try an unfiltered commercial NA option. But this seems a little "over the top" to me to be a reaction to vitamins, so I'm skeptical...
it prolly has more alcohol in it than measured . when i used to make root beer it had like around 1 percent alcohol in it. and it would give you that heady feeling. r u sure its only .13 percent. the only other possibility is fusel alcohols. maybe getting to you. i imagine that if you have a higher fusel to ethanol ratio it might be an issue,.
You can also get a placebo buzz. I've experienced this before with NA beer as well. It's trippy.
That's a bit of the scary thing about alcohol is what it does to your brain, releasing dopamine, etc.
Perhaps the lack of alcohol is letting things live that eventually create toxic things that might also have psychotropic effects on you!

In all cases when too much of it is there, the result is death. Apparently there isn't too much yet.

Food for thought. But probably not at all what's happening. I like the placebo side of the argument better or that your low alcohol isn't as low alcohol as you believe.
Or your hydrometer is way out of whack and there's more alcohol than you think?
I've used it for regular beer in 4-8% range, target OGs achieved, attenuated as expected, and like I said I checked it in tap water and got 1.002 as expected, since it's not distilled water. I don't think this is likely.

You can also get a placebo buzz. I've experienced this before with NA beer as well. It's trippy.

Like I said I don't get this with commercial NAs, it doesn't seem likely to consistently experience it with my homebrew NA

Perhaps the lack of alcohol is letting things live that eventually create toxic things that might also have psychotropic effects on you!

I have done some more research on the types of bacteria that can survive in low pH environments and I'm now wondering if I somehow created too many biogenic amines. I had some more of my NA homebrew last night (as well as a Sam Adams NA) and today feel quite hungover as if I had several alcoholic beers.

Of particular interest in the 4th study is that biogenic amine production by the studied bacteria seems to decrease as ethanol concentration increases. I'm wondering if by leaving the NA beer in primary for 10 days, that created an ideal environment for one of the bacteria strains that is happy at low pH levels to create more amines than would be typical in alcoholic beer.

Additionally, I did mash a little hotter (164F) which may have increased tannin extraction. I don't drink red wine often but when I do it is severely punishing due to the tannins. So this may be causing an additive effect with the amines.

I will be tossing the rest of this batch of NA homebrew and very carefully considering if further experiments are worth the risks.