Beer Sans Bubbles?

Ask the Beer Geek by | Nov 2009 | Issue #34

Due to a recent medical condition, I can no longer have carbonated beverages. What are some noncarbonated beers I can try? I never really liked Guinness, but have drank it; still has too much carbonation. I like Stella, Pilsners, dark and dry, dark and sweet. Thank you. —Troy

Really? Carbon dioxide is a waste product of humans, so this sounds a bit bizarre. Carbonation is known to exasperate and trigger allergic reactions, so perhaps you’re allergic to something else in beer? Or maybe you have IBS? Regardless, sorry to hear about your condition. Carbonation is a byproduct of yeast fermentation and its effervescence really adds to the overall beer-drinking experience; more than most can imagine.

To answer your question, unfortunately there’s no such thing as commercially produced, noncarbonated beer. All beer contains CO2 naturally, and then many breweries force-carbonate before packaging. That said, you do have some options.

1) Cask-conditioned ale, commonly referred to as real ale in the UK where it originated, undergoes a traditional packaging and serving method that significantly reduces the amount of carbonation. The only problem is that cask ales aren’t very common here in the US, but you might want to ask your local better-beer bar, brewpub or brewery for availability. It’s not to say you won’t find any—you just have to know where to look and when, as the lifespan of cask ale after it’s tapped is a short one.

2) Knock it out. As in, literally knock the carbonation (decarbonate) out of solution by stirring your beer vigorously until it reaches an agreeable level. You can also pour the beer quickly back and forth between two glasses to achieve a similar result. Unfortunately, you’ll be knocking out some key nuances too, but you’ll no doubt still enjoy it. All of that said, this could be the best solution for you and allow you to continue to explore the world of beer without restrictions. However, if you still have issues after decarbonating your beer, consult your doctor.

3) Consider homebrewing. Essentially, you’ll have ultimate control over how much carbonation goes into your finished beer; you could even bottle a completely flat beer if you wanted. See if there’s a local homebrew club or shop in your area. They’ll be more than happy to get you on the path to brewing your own decarbonated beer.

So there you go. Try the above and see what works for you. Drop me a note too, as I’d love a followup.

Cheers and good luck!