Is Your Beer Vegan? Here's How to Find Out.

Wait, there's gelatin in this?

Wait, there's gelatin in this?

Nothing kills your buzz like realizing that beer you're sipping actually contains animal by-products. Here's everything you need to find out if your beer is vegan, so you can enjoy your pints with confidence!

When is beer NOT vegan?

There are two main ways that beer can be non-vegan: the fining agents used to process it, and additives like lactose.

Finings help settle suspended matter in the beer, clarifying it of yeast during the racking stage. Not all finings come from animals; plant-based finings like Irish moss and bentonite are sometimes used, and not all brewers choose to use fining agents at all. 

Non-vegan fining agents used in beer:

  • Gelatin - derived from by-products of slaughterhouses, animal gelatins are a fairly common fining agent. It's easy for home brewers to use, so be sure to ask your brewer friends who may not know it's not vegan.
  • Isinglass - a kind of gelatin derived from fish, usually produced as a by-product of the fishing industry. This is the most common non-vegan fining agent.
  • Casein - a protein derived from milk.
  • Albumen - a protein derived from egg whites.

Non-vegan additives:

  • Glycerin, glycerol, and glycerides - glycerin and related agents can be derived from animal or plant oils, or a mix of both. The only way to be sure is confirm it with the company. They are used in beer as preservatives and to add foam or "head" to the beer.
  • Lactose - lactose is a sugar derived from milk that is added to milk stouts, cream stouts, and certain other beers to give them more sweetness and body.
  • Honey

British beers are more likely to have been processed with animal products, and to contain additives like lactose. Because German and Belgian beers are governed by strict purity laws and can contain only certain ingredients, they're almost universally vegan. American beers are probably the most diverse bunch, so you'll want to check with the brewery or use one of the tools below. 

How to find out...

  1. Search Barnivore – This site compiles information by crowd-sourcing information from people who have contacted the breweries directly. It is very detailed, listing the response from the company, the last contact, and when it has been confirmed by multiple sources.
  2. Download Vegaholic – if you prefer your information in app form, this is the way to go. It uses data from Barnivore.
  3. Contact your favorite breweries directly. Ask your local brewers what, if any, finings they use and if there are any other non-vegan additives in their beers. 

If you do contact a brewery, why not request that they mark it vegan on the label? For many, it wouldn't be a hard change, and they will likely be open to your feedback, especially if it will earn them more customers.

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Emily WinsauerComment