O’Doul’s, a near-beer, produced by Anheuser Busch, is considered by state and federal regulations to be a non-alcoholic drink. It has a reported 0.4% alcoholic content level. In the scheme of alcoholic beverages, this level is considered low. Federal levels consider 0.5% alcohol content to be defined as an alcoholic beverage.

In a 2010 study conducted in Germany, participants were asked to consume 2.5 liters of non-alcoholic beer or near-beer. Researchers were interested in seeing if urine and blood samples would come out positive for the presence of ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and EtS (ethyl sulphate) both used as markers for the presence of alcohol.(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20457499)

EtG, a biomarker is produced when alcohol is metabolized. EtG remains in the body at detectable levels for up to 80 hours. EtS also a marker reflects recent consumption of alcohol. Both of these markers are found in the blood and urine after consumption of near-beer beverages.

What are Near Beer or Non-Alcoholic Beers Such as O’Doul’s

Using non-alcoholic drinks dates back to Roman and Greek times. And like other alcoholic beverages, they were consumed instead of water for health reasons. For the most part, water was not purified and carried germs. People, including infants, drank alcohol and these other drinks as a means of avoiding illness. For example, sugar, water, and vinegar infused with herbs and honey was a drink for the lower classes. Vinegar in water was used to stave off dysentery and fever.

According to Webster’s online dictionary: near-beer is any of various malt liquors considered nonalcoholic because they contain less than a specified percentage of alcohol.

The process by which non-alcoholic beer is produced can further clarify the definition. The creation of these beers (standard, light and non-alcoholic) begins with the same process. The malt is mashed and boiled with hops. Then it is cooled and bottled. Ultimately, to create a near-beer, such as O’Doul’s, the alcohol must continue to be processed and eliminated. It is again heated, however, this fundamentally destroys the tastes. There are now new ways of purifying the alcohol and returning the flavor.

Today, the reasons for drinking non-alcoholic beer are those other than polluted water. The most obvious ones are pregnancy and the need to avoid alcohol for a variety of health reasons.

The question then, for people who are in recovery remains, can you safely drink non-alcoholic beer?

Why Drink O’Doul’s or Other Non-Alcoholic Beers?

Should someone in recovery from alcohol or substance abuse drink O’Doul’s? This is a topic that is hotly debated in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). For some, anything that has the hint of alcohol in it, even a dish that contained alcohol during cooking, is off-limits. The argument is based on the concept of triggering and relapse.

When a person in recovery from alcoholism is triggered, it means that something whether it be a person, place or feeling, has heightened their old coping mechanisms. Triggers can take a person back to a past event,  a traumatic experience, a time when emotions were difficult to manage. Such a trigger is not necessarily linked to present reality, but triggers are powerful and resurface cravings, urges, and self-destructive thinking.

For people in recovery, the rituals around drinking can be triggered by drinking non-alcoholic beverages. They can even be triggered by the glass used to contain the beer, for example. For those who are new to recovery, such triggers can bring back the desire to drink or intensify it, despite treatment, meetings and the negative consequences suffered during active alcoholic days.

Once a person is triggered, they are in danger of relapsing. Relapse depends on one’s mental, emotional, the spiritual state of health as well as their ability to speak honestly about the trigger, the craving, and the thought process.

For those readers who are not sure about how much alcohol can affect the mind or the body, below is an example. Here is a link that allows you to enter your information and compare the results with what you thought may have been a small amount of alcohol. https://www.healthstatus.com/perl/calculator.cgi

Calculating the Impact of Alcoholic

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Results

Using the following example: age 37, female, weight 115 lbs, consuming 4 -12 oz light beers over 6 hours the following effects will occur:

  • Blood alcohol concentration will be estimated at 0.06.

The information below provides other effects associated with BAC levels:

  • .03 to .12
    Feeling of increased confidence, sense of daring, look flushed or red in the face and trouble with fine actions, such as writing.
  • .09 to .25
    Trouble seeing or focusing, slow reactions, sleepy, stumble often or lose balance easily.
  • .18 to .30
    Confusion, dizziness, slurred speech and lack of muscle coordination.
  • Above .25
    Serious health issues, including death.

The BAC ranges overlap in the information above because the effects that alcohol have will be different for different people, depending on their metabolism, overall health, medications, etc.

If you are in recovery, it may be best to avoid any non-alcoholic beverages including O’Doul’s. There is an expression in twelve-step programs; once you put down the drink and drug, you must change everything else. Sometimes that means people who drink, places where you drank and situations where you participated in drinking.