Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally posted on March 11, 2013. Enjoy!
St. Patrick’s Day is here, and leprechauns of all nationalities will be looking for ways to douse the world in green. Shamrock-colored beer is a favorite treat for St. Patty’s parties, but there’s nothing green about adding toxic food coloring to some cheap domestic lager.
At its simplest, beer is made from four ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. On first glance, it would seem that this short ingredient list means there’s nothing to keep vegans and vegetarians from enjoying a frosty brew with the rest of us. The reality is slightly more complicated.
Many breweries (including Guiness!) use animal products in the brewing process, reports the No Meat Athlete. Like wine makers, breweries typically use animal by-products clarifying agents, but animal parts are also used for head retention, flavor and coloring. This includes, but isn’t limited to:
- Isinglass – Comes from the dried swim bladders of fish. Almost all cask conditioned ale uses isinglass as a clarifier, although it is more common in England than the U.S.
- Gelatin – A clarifier obtained from the skin, connective tissue and bones of animals. Typically taken from cattle and frozen pigskin.
- Casein/Potassium Caseinate – Protein found in cow milk used as a clarifier.
- Insects – Made into dyes and used for coloring.
- Albium – Refers to any protein that is water soluble. Most common type in brewing is serum albumin, which is taken from animal blood.
Because no law requires brewers to disclose these ingredients on the label, most vegans are hesitant to belly up to the same key as most meat eaters. But being vegan is no reason to avoid beer altogether. Simply look for one of these flavorful varieties instead–perfect for a vegan-friendly St. Patrick’s Day!
Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout by Anderson Valley Brewing Company – Delivers a deep ebony color, voluptuous mahogany head and bold, roasty flavors for those who aren’t afraid of a real stout. Aromas of freshly baked bread, espresso and dried cherries meld seamlessly with rich toffee flavors and a creamy mouth.
Ranger IPA by New Belgium - This clear amber beauty bursts at the starting gate with an abundance of hops: Cascade (citrus), Chinook (floral/citrus) and Simcoe (fruity) lead off the beer, with Cascade added again for an intense dry hop flavor. And it’s label is green, so it’s perfect to prevent pinches.
Irish Red by O’Hara’s - Formerly known as Moling’s Red Ale and now carrying the family name of the brewery founders, this full-bodied Irish red, ruby in colour, is fruity and aromatic with a distinctive hop character balanced with a generous blend of sweet malts and has a distinctive roast finish. (Note: Carlow Brewing’s entire suite is vegan-friendly. That means any of the O’hara’s brews, or Curim, their Celtic wheat beer.)
Hard Cider by Bulmer’s – Not a beer drinker? No worries. You can still unleash your inner leprechaun with a glass of Bulmer’s cider, which is made in Ireland. HOWEVER, only the pear and berry ciders are free of animal products–the original and light are not.
Irish Lager by Rogue Brewery - An Irish style lager with a smooth mellow flavor and an apple crisp finish, made right here in the USA! Silver medalist in the 2010 World Beer Championships.
Got a vegan beer that we should try this St. Patrick’s Day? Tell us about it in the comments!
Image via Thinkstock