When trying out the vegan diet, people often focus only on what they eat, but it is also equally important to pay attention to what one drinks. That inevitably raises the question: What about beer? It’s arguably the most popular drink in the world. Is it vegan? Let’s find out in this new article by Veggiepedia.
How Is Beer Made?
Beer is made by fermenting grains like barley, wheat, or corn with hops, yeast, and water, which are all animal-free ingredients. The process begins with malting the grains to convert starches into sugars. The resulting liquid, called wort, is boiled with hops before yeast is added to ferment the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The beer is aged, conditioned, and then packaged for consumption, with different ingredients and techniques used to create various flavors and styles.
Animal Ingredients In Beer
While barley, wheat, corn/hops, water and yeasts do not come from animals, the brewing process may involve the use of some ingredients of animal origin. Some beers use ingredients of animal origin such:
- Lactose, a sugar derived from dairy milk
- Honey, produced by bees
- Gelatin, derived from animal bones, can be used in the beer clarification process
- Ichthyocolla, substance made from fish bladders, also commonly used to clarify beer
These ingredients are not present in all beers, and some breweries specifically avoid using these ingredients. The problem is, unlike food brands, beer brands are not as transparent regarding their exact ingredient lists. However, many of our vegan friends will happily drink any beer without too much thought and are generally much more picky when it comes to wine brands.
What About The Yeasts?
Yeasts are microorganisms used in the fermentation process to produce alcohol in beer, and they do not have an animal origin, unlike gelatine, lactose or honey. They are classified as members of the fungus kingdom. [Wikipedia]. As for whether vegans care about yeasts, it depends on their personal beliefs and values. While yeasts are living organisms, they are not animals and do not have a central nervous system or the ability to feel pain. That puts them in a moral category similar to plants.
Most vegans in my social circles do not consider yeasts to be sentient beings and do not have ethical concerns about using them to produce beer or other fermented foods. Out of the vegans I know who drink alcohol, almost all drink beer. Some vegans may have a different view and strive to avoid all products that involve the use of any living organism, however, that is a very hard challenge in today’s world. After all, plants are also living organisms, aren’t they?
Examples Of Vegan-Friendly Beer Brands
Many breweries have started producing veg-friendly beers recently and marketing them as suitable for vegans. Here are a few examples:
- Guinness: The popular Irish stout has been vegan-friendly since 2018 as the brewery stopped using isinglass in its brewing process.
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Co: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is known for using only vegan-friendly ingredients in its beers.
- Lagunitas Brewing Company: Lagunitas Brewing Company produces several vegan-friendly beers, including its IPA, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, and DayTime IPA.
- Budweiser and Bud Light
- Stella Artois Beer
Is beer vegan? Many of our vegan friends drink beer and consider it as vegan without too much thought, unlike with wine. Some beers may contain animal-based ingredients such as lactose, honey, and gelatin, however, the beer brands’ exact ingredient lists are often not disclosed. However, some brands, examples shown above, are already marketing themselves explicitly as veg-friendly, and as veganism becomes more mainstream, expect more officially vegan beer brands to appear.
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