When I first went vegan it took me a little while to find all the bizarre things that contained animal products- like crisps having milk in them (what is the point??) Beer never even crossed my mind until someone else mentioned it. Before you freak out like I did before I remembered about Google, the good news is that there’s loads of vegan friendly beer out there.
What to look out for
Isinglass is the pesky thing used in the beer brewing process to put it in the non-vegan category, or sometimes gelatine but this is used less often. Isinglass 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 nice and smooth instead of cloudy. Isinglass is dropped into the cask and basically acts as a charge, attracting all the yeast to settle at the bottom rather than floating Free. Drinking unfined beer really just means you’re drinking a more natural brew rather than having the possibility of fish gut particles swimming around in your pint. Which doesn’t exactly sound appealing, whether you’re vegan or not.
Aside from this, you’ve got your milk stouts which contain lactose. These are easier to spot as the milk part is clearly labelled in the ingredients list and often in the title itself. And then there are the weird and wonderful ingredients that some of the more experimental breweries play around with- like Wild Beer Co. for example who make food inspired beer, one of which tries to emulate lobster bisque.
Where to find vegan friendly beer
A lot of craft breweries already strive to make beer the natural way, without pasteurisation or adding finings so this means most of them make it onto the “to drink” list. The tricky thing is finding out which beers are vegan and which aren’t, as labels can be tricky little devils without all the details. Luckily there’s an entire website dedicated to this purpose, Barnivore is well-stocked with vegan friendly booze knowledge, type in any alcohol and get a straight yes or no answer.
Guinness is about to join the likes of Budweiser, Carlsberg, Stella Artois (not cidre), San Miguel, Heineken, Corona and Becks by becoming vegan friendly and ditching the tired old Isinglass from their brewing process. It hasn’t happened quite yet though apparently good things come to those who wait so keep an eye out for the big moment.
I won’t bore you to death by listing every single vegan friendly beer out there, luckily there are tonnes of them and only so many pages of this magazine, but here’s a little intro to get you started:
The most well-known Scottish pint, Tennents, is in fact vegan friendly so whether you love or hate it, it’s an easy to find option in the pub. Another well-stocked choice is Brewdog, the Scottish craft beer champions. You’ll often find their flagship Punk IPA on tap and the company are certified vegan too, look out for the logo on their bottles (aside from the odd milky exception or two.) William’s Bros. Joker IPA is also on the safe list, as are most of their kegs and bottled beer. There’s also Aberdeen based Fierce Beer, set on delivering in your face flavours like Peanut Riot (just avoid Cranachan Killer and Café Racer as these contain lactose); Six Degrees North (with the exception of Honey Bee Good) plus Fallen Brewery and Black Isle’s bottle and keg based beers brewed in the Highlands.
Other UK based craft beers include:
Howling Hops (with the exception of their limited production of cask ale which is only sold in 2 London pubs)
Beavertown (apart from ginger honey ale)
Weird Beard (check their website for the ones marked as vegan)
Magick Rock (again, check their website for individual beers as there are a few exceptions)
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