FTC Disclosure: If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I may receive a small commission on the transaction - at no added cost to you. Thank you!
There are many vegan beer options, so you can add alcohol to the list of things you don't have to give up in order to live an ethical, compassionate, animal-free life.
You might be wondering what could possibly be non-vegan in beer, right?
It's not as though there is meat, eggs, or dairy products in beer.
The main issue here is with how beer is processed and filtered, as it can sometimes be done with animal products.
I've heard many people say, "I'm not so vegan that I don't drink alcohol that is non-vegan," and I think that's completely fine. Every person needs to decide for himself what works best in his personal situation. However, for those vegans who want to avoid using animal products in any facet of their lives, learning a few tricks on vegan beers can help tremendously.
The most common added ingredients in beer are isinglass and gelatin. Isinglass comes from fish bladders and gelatin comes from pulverized bones. The other possible animal ingredients in beer arealbumin, casein, bone char, food coloring, glyceryl monostearate, lactose, sugar, or pepsin. These ingredients are called "finings," and are used to clarify and refine beers and act as a filter through which the beer is poured near the end of the brewing process.
Some breweries use actual animal products in their beers for flavorings. The most common flavoring ingredient ishoney, which is used as a sweetener, and you can usually tell by the name of the beer flavor.
There are a few other factors to consider when choosing a vegan beer besides the obvious. A few of the big-name beer producers support non-vegan enterprises like zoos, Sea World, and horse racing. Many breweries will send their used barley, malt, rye, and other grains to livestock feed houses after they've finished pressing them for the actual beer. If it concerns you what you support with your money, it's worth checking into the practices of your favorite beer companies.
Because the filtering process happens at the very end, there is very little of the animal products in the actual beer you drink. However, strict vegans believe that animals should never be used in the process of making food for humans, especially when there are other animal-free options.
There are a few guidelines you can follow if you want to make sure your beer is vegan. For one, where the beer is produced is a good starting point for figuring out whether your beer is vegan. Typically beers made in the United States won't be made with animal products.
Also, German laws for purity enforce using only water, barley, wheat, hops, and yeast, so for the most part, German (and Belgian) beers are also vegan. Some of the best beer in the world comes from Germany and Belgium, so that's good news for beer drinkers!
On the contrary, if you see something that is made in "traditional English" style or "cask-treated" styles, they are likely to use isinglass, casein, or gelatin. Many Irish and British beers are therefore not vegan, but there are a few great beer makers that do it the non-animal way.
If you don't have a list to check and are caught in a pinch, try to remember this: any and all unfiltered or unrefined beers will be vegan. Most of the animal ingredients are added during the filtration process. Opt for American, German, or Belgian beers, and be very careful with British and Irish beers.
A quick internet search can reward you with abundant lists of vegan beers, and I like the idea of printing it and carrying it with you when you shop. My favorite list of the vegan beers on the market comes from Barnivore.com.
As the market for vegan beers grows, so too does the list of acceptable brewers. If you really want to try a particular beer but want to make sure it's vegan, you could check online or call the producer yourself.