What’s not vegan about beer?
Isn’t beer all about malts, hops, yeast and water? Nothing too animal about that then. The non-vegan bit you have to watch out for in beer (and the same in wine) is the fining agent – which is used to make the liquid clear and bright. Some use egg whites, elatin or the least well-known, isinglass.
What is isinglass?
This is going to sound a big gross (especially if you are a vegan) but it’s the swim bladder in the sturgeon fish. Basically, a gas-filled chamber that gives the fish buoyancy. Someone discovered that drying this and grinding it in to a powder then adding it to beer (or wine) would speed up clarification. It’s certainly quicker than just letting all the tiny floating bits of spent yeast drop to the bottom.
Interestingly, it’s only recently that there’s been a demand for clear, bright beer. Previously ales would have been hazy … in fact, some of the best breweries have reverted to this style. So that’s a clear (ha ha) indication that isinglass hasn’t been used.
Where to find a vegan-friendly beverage
Nowadays, breweries indicate (and are quite often very proud of) their vegan beers (you’ll find it flagged up at Brew Republic) and any pub worth its license should stock some. The good news is that it’s increasingly easy to locate a vegan-friendly tipple. The first 100% vegan pub in London opened its doors in timely fashion in January 2018 – The Spread Eagle in Camden – by owners of Club Mexicano, peddlers of vegan taco street food. And there are more around the country – the Tipsy Vegan in Norwich, the Walnut Tree in Ipswich – and a large number that will pour one or two at least.
Some breweries will only make vegan beer (Beerblefish, Beowulf, Camden Town); for others they offer some as a part of their range (Adnams, Beavertown) or they’re available in bottle and keg but not in cask (Arbor Ales, Badger). If you’re vegan, you must however keep an eye out for brands where the draft version is vegan, but the can and bottle aren’t (Guinness is one of these).
At Brew Republic, we will always make it easy for you to find them.