Quite embarrassingly, this was the first question I googled when I took the plunge! And if you are in the same boat, I’ll put you out of your misery quick.
So, is beer vegan?!
yes, beer is vegan* (woo hoo!)
*well, most of it is!
Why might beer not be vegan?
The vegan lifestyle is defined by its unwillingness to exploit animals or animal products.
I’ll admit, when I considered going vegan, I wasn’t aware quite how hardcore this went, but I soon found out…
Vegan diets exclude all animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey — and most also rule out any byproducts derived from animals or insects, including ones used during food processing.
Unfortunately, establishing which alcohol is vegan can be tricky, as manufacturers aren’t usually required to list ingredients on labels for beer, wine, and spirits.
Common non-vegan ingredients in beer
Many — but certainly not all — alcoholic beverages are vegan.
However, animal products may be used during the processing phase or as ingredients in the drink itself.
For example, during processing, certain animal-derived products can be used as fining agents (substances used to filter impurities out and improve the clarity, flavour, and aroma)
Here are some common non-vegan ingredients and fining agents used in alcohol:
- Milk and cream. These dairy products are sometimes added to beer or liqueurs to give a creamy, rich flavour. They’re also an ingredient in many cocktails and blended drinks.
- Whey, casein, and lactose. These milk byproducts are occasionally used as ingredients or fining agents.
- Honey. Honey is fermented to make mead and used as a sweetener in other alcoholic beverages.
- Eggs. Egg white protein, also known as albumin, is often used as a fining agent in wine. Eggs are also added to some cocktails.
- Isinglass. This popular fining agent is derived from fish bladders.
- Cochineal and carmine. Carmine, a red dye made from scaly insects called cochineal, is added to some alcoholic beverages for colour.
- Chitin. Chitin is a fibre used as a fining agent. Though a vegan version does exist, it’s usually a byproduct of insects or shellfish.
- Gelatin. Gelatin is not only used to make jello, puddings, and gravies but also commonly serves as a fining agent. Notably, it’s derived from animal skin, bones, and cartilage.
- Glycerin Many people don’t realise that this one is often not vegan either. It can be made from plant oil or animal fats- the animal-derived glycerin- tallow- is taken from beef or mutton fat. However, many ingredients labels don’t specify which form of the ingredient is included, so I always say, “if in doubt, leave it out”.
What is beer made from?
Beer is most commonly made from barley malt, water, hops and yeast, which means it’s usually vegan.
Unfortunately, some beer brewers add finings that are not vegan as part of their brewing process, and this means some beers aren’t suitable for anyone committed to living a cruelty-free lifestyle.
Confirmed Vegan beers
Vegan beers do not use animal or insect products AT ANY TIME during brewing.
Most commercial beers from established breweries are vegan. These include:
- Budweiser and Bud Light
- Coors and Coors Light
- Corona Extra and Corona Light
- Michelob Ultra
- Miller Genuine Draft and Miller High Life
- Pabst Blue Ribbon
- Guinness Draught and Guinness Original XX
- San Miguel
- Stella Artois
Keep in mind, this isn’t an exhaustive list — numerous other vegan beers are on the market, including many craft beers.
Craft breweries will often have a label confirming any vegan credentials.
Microbreweries that make vegan beer include Alternation Brewing Company, Little Machine, and Modern Times Brewery.
But if you’re at the bar, making your choice, and you’re still not sure, here are a few resources for you to double-check:
and 2. Barnivore’s online checker is a cool little tool, as well.
Though there are exceptions, the beers most typically non-vegan include:
- Cask ales. Otherwise known as real ales, cask ales are a traditional British brew that often use isinglass as a fining agent.
- Honey beers. Some breweries use honey for added sweetness and flavour. Any beer with “honey” in the name is likely not vegan.
- Meads. Mead is a beer-like alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey.
- Milk stouts. Though vegan alternatives exist, milk stouts usually contain whey or lactose.
So there you have it. Luckily for us beer-lovers, we can go vegan without giving up our refreshing summer pints and without tooo much hassle.
And I, for one, let out quite the sigh of relief at that one….
Like your vino too? Check out our article, “Is wine vegan?”