I was on a recent stag-do to Amsterdam and as we are walking through departures one of the other lads asks if I’m aware that beer isn’t vegan. He begins telling me all this stuff about how fish products are used in the brewing process, but I don’t want to hear it. I put it to the back of my mind and get on the plane, set for a weekend of heavy drinking and regret. However it’s something that has played on my mind since then. Is beer really not vegan? Is all beer not vegan? Whats this fish story all about? So begrudgingly I did some research to find out – is beer vegan?
What makes beer not vegan?
Most of us beer drinkers will be able to tell you that beer is made from hops, barley, malt, water and a bit of yeast. What is less commonly known is that beer will often contain traces of fish bladder called Isinglass. Isinglass is commonly added to a cask of beer towards the end of the brewing process which is a technique know as fining. The isinglass reacts with the yeast in beer to form a jelly-like mass which then settles at the bottom of the cask, resulting in a clearer and more attractive drink.
Other animal products used in the fining process can include casein and gelatin. The fining process has been used since the 19th century and is used by both mass-produced brands and microbreweries. The use of isinglass for fining beer is particularly common in the UK. Typical!
Which beers are not vegan?
Many sources will tell you that as a general rule of thumb, most UK brewed beers are not vegan. During my research I discovered that while most UK kask beers are not vegan, many of the bottled varieties do not use animal products in the fining process and are therefore vegan friendly. Many breweries are becoming aware of a growing demand for vegan beer, most notably Guinness who recently announced that its going vegan.
A great website if you want to find out if your favourite beer is vegan or not is Barnivore, which has a database over over 30,000 beers, wines and spirits, as well as comments from the breweries about their brewing processes.
Below is a list of the 30 most popular beers in the UK, and whether they are vegan or not:
- Budweiser (UK brewed) – Vegan
- Guinness (keg) – Vegan
- Guinness ( bottles and cans) – Not Vegan (yet)
- Stella Artois – Vegan
- Heineken – Vegan
- Carlsberg (UK) – Vegan
- Carling – Not vegan
- Pilsner Urquell – Vegan
- Fullers London Pride (keg) – Not vegan
- Fullers London Pride (bottle) – Vegan
- Doom Bar (bottle) – Vegan
- Doom Bar (kask) – Not vegan
- Old Speckled Hen – Not vegan
- Hobgoblin – Not vegan
- Duchy Old Ruby Organic Bottle – Vegan
- Duchy IPA Organic Bottle – Vegan
- Duchy Golden Ale Organic Bottle – Vegan
- Brakspear Oxford Gold Organic Bottle – Vegan
- Wychwood Scarecrow Organic Bottle – Vegan
- Newcastle Brown Ale – Not vegan
- Spitfire (kask) – Not vegan
- Spitfire (bottle) – Vegan
- Theakston Old Peculier – Not vegan
- McEwans Champion Ale (kask) – Not vegan
- Young’s London Stout – Vegan
- Badger Fursty Ferret (bottle)- Vegan
- Badger Furty Ferret (kask) – Not Vegan
- Bishop’s Finger (kask) – Not vegan
- Bishop’s Finger (bottle) – Vegan
- Abot Ale – Not Vegan
Sorry if this has ruined your weekend.