Is beer vegan? That’s the ultimate question for beer drinking, ale loving vegans. The good news is that yes, most beers are vegan. The vast majority of major beer brands produce vegan-friendly beer.
The bad news, though, is that some beers aren’t vegan! This makes things trickier because almost all vegan beer brands have yet to disclose on the packaging that they are, in fact, suitable for vegan consumption!
Animal products in beer are a rarity, but certain brewing techniques do make it a possibility that strict vegans need to be aware of. To help you out, we take a look at when beer is vegan, and what makes beer not vegan!
Can Vegans Drink Beer?
Do vegans drink beer? Of course they do, but what beer drinkers might not know is that not all beer is vegan. This is one of those vegetarianism myths that actually proves to be correct, at least some of the time.
But while some brewers do make non vegan beer, most beer is vegan!
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell. Vegan alcohol (wine and spirits, as well as beer) is never adequately labeled. While many beers are vegan, they aren’t always specifically labeled as such.
A minority of brewers use animal products in their production process, and this makes it impossible to say with clarity that beer is vegan. It really depends on the beer in question!
Why Is Beer Not Vegan?
Is beer vegan? Sometimes. It’s an annoying answer, we know, but to explain in more detail, let’s take a look at what’s in beer and why it might not be vegan beer.
Beer has been drunk by people for thousands of years. In fact, for large periods of human history, it’s been safer to drink beer than it has been to drink water. But despite this longevity, the basic recipe of a beer has changed little in millennia.
There are lagers, ales, pilsners, and stouts, but all beer uses a combination of 4 basic ingredients:
- Cereal grains (barley or wheat, for example)
Wheat beers are made from wheat, while a Heineken is made from malted barley. Different brands and brewers have different recipes, and different beers may have other flavorings to make them unique.
The basic recipe, however, is all vegan-friendly. There are no animal products in sight. Some brewers might add non vegan ingredients to their recipe. For example, some beers have honey extract or milk products. These are usually stated. The problem isn’t really in these ingredients – it’s in the brewing techniques.
What Is Isinglass?
What’s isinglass? That’s a question you don’t often find yourself asking, but it’s central to beer brewing. Isinglass is a type of beer fining. To be accurate, isinglass is an animal product taken from fish bladders.
Sounds nasty, right? But it’s common in many products, and not just the occasional beer. Isinglass and other “finings” are used by some brewers as a way to filter beers. The fining process removes impurities from the beer, leaving you with a clear, clean, and smooth brew.
This process is more commonly used in wine production, but it’s the main reason why beers might not be vegan. While isinglass beer is common, there are other beer finings that are also not vegan. Gelatin in beer can be a problem, for example, as this animal product is also used for fining.
Other fining products include milk protein or egg extracts, and while these would make the vegetarian beers list, they aren’t vegan-friendly. Luckily for vegans, there are a large number of vegan-friendly alternatives, and most brewers are using these in their breweries.
Guinness, for example, was until recently brewed using isinglass in the brewing process. Now they use vegan-friendly products to filter their beers!
How Can You Tell If a Beer Is Vegan-Friendly?
Unfortunately, it can be difficult for vegans to easily find the information they need when it comes to beer. Companies don’t legally have to make this information readily available, as it’s part of the brewing process (and they often want to keep the finer details of these processes secret!).
While there are no animal products in the recipe, the filtration and fining process can leave behind traces of animal products in the beer. Some beers are labeled as vegan-friendly, but many are not, even if they are vegan-friendly!
That means that a strict vegan might need to put in some detective work to get answers. If you have a few favorite beers, then check out the brewer’s website, where you should be able to track down the information. That way, you can safely order a few beers in the bar without having to ask or worry! If you buy your beer from a craft brewery or small brewer, then you’ll need to ask before you buy (or before you try).
As veganism becomes more popular, though, it’s becoming easier to source this information. Larger brewers generally avoid animal products, and this trend is only going to increase in the coming years. In the future, you might even find the information you need on the bottle itself!
What Beers Are Vegan?
Luckily for the plant-based beer drinkers out there, the overwhelming majority of beers are vegan-friendly. However, unluckily for the beer drinker, the vast majority of brewers don’t make their production methods easy to find out!
But we’ve got your back. The following is a list of vegan beers that are definitely vegan-friendly. They contain zero animal products and are brewed and bottled using vegan-friendly processes. Just remember: in some cases, the brewing company produces both vegan and non-vegan beers. We’ve noted this where necessary.
- Abita (Except Honey Rye Ale)
- Big Sky Brewing (Except Summer Honey)
- Budweiser and Bud Light
- Coors and Coors Light
- Goose Island
- Great Divide
- Guinness (Original and Blonde American Lager Only)
- Heineken (Beer Only, Not Cider)
- Odell IPA and 90 Shilling Ale
- Miller Lite and Miller High Life
- New Belgium
- Pabst Blue Ribbon
- Rogue Chocolate Stout & Hazelnut Brown Nectar
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
- Stella Artois (Beer Only, Not Cider)
Is Beer Vegan? Most of the Time!
The answer to the question “is beer vegan?” isn’t exactly a satisfying one! Most of the time, yes, beer is vegan. The vast majority of beers do not contain any animal ingredients, but because a few do, strict vegans need to be careful what they drink.
Vegan beer is everywhere, as long as you know what you’re looking for. Every bar and liquor store sells Corona, Budweiser, and Guinness – these are all vegan-friendly. Increasingly, brewers have avoided using animal products in their brewing process too, so in the future, non vegan beer is going to become even rarer than it already is!
Why not bookmark our guide to vegan beers, and save it as a reference guide for your next evening out?