A Guide To Vegan Beers

Beer might not be the most obvious thing that springs to mind when you think of the word ‘vegan’ but it’s not all avocado memes and deflecting questions about protein deficiency. Are you a newbie herbivore, trying to impress one or merely bored and mildly intrigued? Perfect; read on to find out what might be lurking in your pint and why craft beer is ahead of the game when it comes to vegan-friendly brews.

The fishy side to brewing
The main culprit that puts some beers in the non-vegetarian/vegan category is Isinglass. This is a form of collagen taken from dried fish bladders and used in the fining process. Fining agents are usually added at the end of the brewing process to improve the overall clarity so that the finished product will look clear instead of cloudy. Isinglass is dropped into the cask and basically acts as a charge, attracting all the yeast and protein haze to settle at the bottom of the cask rather than floating free.

Milk stouts and honey flavoured beers are the other things to watch out for. Milk stouts contain lactose, a sugar found in milk, to add a creamy sweetness to the dark malts. This is easier to spot as the clue is usually in the title or, failing that, the label. Honey is a less common ingredient but features in the brewing process of beers like Hiver’s Honey Beer – adding a distinct flavour and sweetness

What’s the big deal?
We all have different lifestyles and opinions. Basically, being vegan is a choice not to consume or use things that are made from animals.
It will often mean different things to different people; some may parade around in cheerful t-shirts with a logo that reads ‘meat is murder’, while others may follow a vegan diet merely to benefit their health. Whatever the reasoning, knowing what you’re actually consuming means you can make your own choice to take it or leave it.

Why craft beer is best
The good news is that the majority of craft beer tends to be vegan by default, as many breweries strive to make beer the natural way without adding any artificial ingredients. More and more breweries are ditching the isinglass and finding alternative ways to keep making delicious beer without the fishy addition. One of many breweries to recently announce their vegan-friendly status is our friends at Tempest.
Head Brewer, Douglas, informs us that: “We purchased a centrifuge, which essentially spins the unfinished product to remove solids, producing a much clearer beer. It also means our beers are now vegan-friendly. Isinglass can be unreliable and difficult to work with. Using the centrifuge allows us to process the beer in a much more consistent and controlled manner.” A centrifuge is a processing aid which ‘spins’ the beer at high speeds in order to pull the proteins, yeast and any left-over matter from the hops – removing the need for finings. So it’s not just about appealing to a wider range of beer drinkers, but striving to create better quality beers.

How do I find out if a beer is vegan?
I won’t bore you to death by listing every single vegan-friendly beer out there; luckily there are tonnes and only so many pages of this magazine. One handy resource is a website called Barnivore whose sole purpose is to tell you whether or not your alcoholic beverage is animal free. It’s a handy trick to have up your sleeve if you’re unsure – the humans behind it work hard to keep the information accurate and up to date. You can read about our top vegan beers here.

So you can now go forth and impress the vegan in your life with all your newfound beer knowledge. Got questions? Tweet me @donnafoulis.

Originally published in Issue Eight of Flavourly Magazine. Written by Donna Foulis.

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