Which beers are suitable for vegans?

The number of vegetarians and vegans is growing every year all over the world. In the United States alone, more than 16 million people are living their lives by restricting or not eating animal products at all. Beer, although made from plant ingredients, is not always suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Let’s try to understand what kind of beer they can use.

Why isn’t all beer suitable for vegetarians?

Vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry, fish, and seafood, and people who follow the vegan diet also ignore dairy products and eggs. So, beers whose recipes include the use of flavoring additives, such as lactose, are not suitable for vegans. The list will be and popular milkshake, and historical oyster stouts, and any experimental varieties with the addition of meat or fish. Also, strict vegetarians also do not use honey.
And what about yeast? They belong to the group of single-celled mushrooms, which are considered plant food.

What is gelatin and why do breweries use it?

Gelatin is a hydrolyzed collagen protein that is a product of the processing of animal connective tissue. Some beer producers use it or fish glue (which is derived from the swimming bubbles of various fish, the sturgeon family) to lighten the drink. These purifiers and brighteners have been used for centuries. They interact with particles that give the beer a murkiness, such as proteins in malt or residual yeast. As a result, these particles settle, filter, and the beer becomes cleaner and more transparent.

How does vegetarian beer be made?

Most beer producers use modern cleaning products – polyvinylpyrrolidone, Irish moss, or kieselguhr. They do not contradict the views of vegetarians.

How do I know if a vegetarian can drink this beer?

Most breweries do not state whether they use animal products when processing their beer. Although many manufacturers in the U.S. and Western Europe claim their beer is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. And some even have special marks about it on the labels.

You can check vegan-friendly beers on beermod. PETA also has a list of vegan beers on their website; limited, but definitely helpful. 

Does this mean you have to worry about looking up every single beer before you drink it? No! German and Belgium beers are usually vegan because they insist on using only traditional methods to brew them. But at festivals, you can check for lactose in case. It is common in milk stouts and sometimes found in NEIPAs as well. If you are not sure, check the label when you are in the store ask the brewer at the festival before you order a draft. They are used to getting these questions and are always informative and helpful!

Most common animal products that are used in brewing

Here is a list of the most common animal products that are used in brewing:

  • Isinglass – Clarifier that is very common in brewing. Comes from the dried swim bladders of fish. Almost all cask-conditioned ale uses isinglass as a clarifier, although it is more common in England than in the U.S.
  • Gelatin – Clarifier obtained from the skin, connective tissue, and bones of animals. Taken from cattle and frozen pigskin.
  • Casein/Potassium Caseinate – Protein found in cow milk used as a clarifier.
  • Charcoal – Used for filtering. A part is usually produced from animal bones.
  • Diatomaceous earth – Used in filtering. Comes from fossils or sea shells.
  • Insects – Made into dyes and used for coloring.
  • Glyceryl monostearate – Animal derived substance used to control foam.
  • Pepsin – Also used to control foam; it is sometimes derived from pork.
  • White sugar – Flavor additive often whitened using bone charcoal.
  • Albium – Refers to any protein that is water-soluble. The most common type in brewing is serum albumin, which is taken from animal blood.
  • Lactose – Beers labeled as sweet, milk, or cream stouts may or may not contain lactose.  Sometimes the description refers to the texture and not the ingredient.  It’s best to double-check these to be sure.  Milk chocolate is common in certain styles. But some so-called “chocolate” porters or stouts actually contain no real chocolate at all. Some malted barley is called “chocolate malt” to describe the flavor the roasting imparts.
  • Honey – Flavor additive
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