If you’re wondering how difficult it is to find vegan beer, you’ll feel relieved to discover it’s not. Most beers are vegan. Beer is typically prepared from barley malt, water, hops, and yeast, making it suitable for most vegans. Unfortunately, there are some styles that use non-vegan finings in their brewing process, which means that some beers are not suited for people attempting to live a cruelty-free lifestyle. However, vegan beer still exists and is readily available at most retailers. We’ve put together some information about what ingredients that might be added to beer making it non-vegan friendly.
Is beer vegetarian and/or vegan?
Because the most important ingredients required to produce beer are water, yeast, hops, and grain, you may conclude that all beer is vegan. Each ingredient is completely vegan, so beer must be, right?
The components used during the fining process determine whether the brewer may label the beer as suitable for vegans and vegetarians. This stage of the brewing process removes yeast and contaminants, resulting in the crisp, clear beverage we know and love. However, some beers may use fining agents such as isinglass, gelatin, or lactose, which contain animal by-products, rendering them inappropriate for vegans.
How do you identify beer that isn’t vegan-friendly?
Some beer is not suitable for vegans because brewers utilise finings that contain materials derived from animals. Therefore, if you’re a vegan, you should always check whether a beer contains non-vegan ingredients before purchasing it. It may require a bit of digging, but researching a company’s values and history in regards to selling vegan products will help you get an idea of whether their beers are vegan.
Beer with animal components
These components are unlikely to appear on any label, particularly when employed in the fining process. Nevertheless, here’s a list of beer’s most common (and a few unusual) animal ingredients so you are aware.
- Albumin is a protein obtained from animal fluids and tissues and used as a foaming agent.
- Bone char comes from burned animal bones, and brewers use it to filter the beer brew.
- Carmine: A crimson dye derived from cochineal insects; you can find carmine in red and pink ales.
- Casein is a milk protein that clarifies the liquid.
- Chitin/Chitosan: Chitin and its derivative chitosan are fining agents generated mostly from the exoskeletons of lobsters, crabs, and shrimps, but they can also come from fungus. These fining agents are also used to in some processes to clarify the liquid.
- Gelatin: This fining agent comes from animal body parts and is also used as a clarifying agent.
- Glycerol monostearate is another foaming agent commonly generated from animal fats but can also come from plants.
- Honey is an animal-derived component that is occasionally added to flavour beer, increase its alcohol content, or as the base for mead.
- Isinglass is collagen formed from the dried swim bladders of fish, this is an agent used to make the beer appear clearer and brighter.
- Lactose: Because brewing yeast cannot ferment lactose, brewers can use it to sweeten and thicken the mouthfeel of the beer. It’s most common in “milk” or “cream” stouts.
- Whey is a dairy flavouring additive that boasts a unique flavour and creamy texture.
Brewers most typically employ these additives to give their beer a cleaner appearance. If a beer contains any of these ingredients, it is not vegan.
Isinglass, what is it, and why is it used in beer?
Isinglass, a once-common brewing component, renders some beers unsuitable for vegans. If you’re easily disturbed, you might want to prepare yourself for this one. Isinglass comes from the bladders of certain tropical fish. It comes from drying and dissolving the bladders in acid over many weeks to make a type of collagen known as ‘isinglass finings’ in the brewing sector. The primary aim of isinglass is to eliminate the hazy yeast from beer, and it is well-known for doing so efficiently and affordably. While it is less common nowadays, it is still used to clear beer by select cask ales and some small craft brewers.
What exactly is glycerin, and how does it appear in beer?
Glycerin is a secret non-vegan component since many people are unaware that it is not always vegan. Glycerin can come from plant oil or animal fats. However, many ingredient labels do not specify which form is in the beer, so if you are unsure, you may want to avoid that product. Animal glycerin, often tallow, comes from beef or mutton fat.
What is gelatin, and how does it appear in beer?
Gelatin is a protein made by boiling animal skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones. It clarifies items and is commonly used in beer, wine, shampoo and cosmetics. In addition, it’s commonly found in sweets, especially marshmallows and jelly candy. Brewers may use gelatin throughout fermentation or immediately add into the beer keg as a clarifying agent.
What is casein, and how does it affect beer?
Casein is a milk component that is sometimes used in the fining process of beer and wine manufacturing. Because many people are allergic to casein, brewers will likely highlight this ingredient on a beer bottle if it is included in the brew.
Is it possible to make beer vegan?
The good news is that you don’t have to avoid drinking beer if you are a vegan! Many beers today are 100% vegan and do not use animal-derived components in the brewing process. In addition, with technological breakthroughs, there are now several vegan-friendly alternatives to animal-based finings. Vegan fining agents that are commonly used include:
Carrageenan – a seaweed, also known as Irish moss. It clarifies vegan beer during the boiling process.
Biofine is a vegan-friendly colloidal silicic acid solution that accelerates beer clarity.
Where can you find out if a beer is vegan-friendly?
Unfortunately, it can be difficult for vegans to find this information when it comes to beer. Companies are not required by law to make this information available because it is part of the brewing process (and they frequently wish to keep the finer details of these processes hidden!).
While brewers have not used animal ingredients in the recipe, the filtration and fining processes may leave residues of animal products in the beer. As a result, some beers are vegan-friendly, but some are not, even if they claim to be!
This implies that a strict vegan may have to do some detective work to find answers. If you have a few favourites, go to the brewer’s website. As veganism grows in popularity, it is becoming easier to find this information. Many breweries, particularly larger ones will generally avoid using animal ingredients. You might even discover the information you need on the bottle itself!
At Prancing Pony, our core range beers are all vegan! We’re very transparent about any new/limited releases that don’t fall into the vegan friendly category. Explore our range of beers for more information.