St. Patrickís Day is celebrated in many ways, including perhaps one of the most popular: drinking beer. But what if you are vegan? Did you know that some very popular and tasty brews contain animal by-products?
Guinness, for example, uses isinglass, a substance obtained from dried fish bladders, to filter their beer. Other breweries use different animal by-products including casein, gelatin, and glycerin. While these products may not be in the finished bottle of beer, they are used during the manufacturing process as a fining agent to clarify beer in the vat.
The traditional methods of brewing beer are vegan, but the trouble can come in the fining or clarification process. Fining is basically getting rid of the unwanted things left in beer like tannins or degenerated yeast cells. With modern filtration equipment, the use of animal by-products during this process is less common, but it is still favored by very traditional brewers.
And, since these finings donít make it into the finished product, they are not often considered true ingredients to beer manufacturers. But to most vegans, they are.
What’s a vegan beer lover to do? The good news is there are a lot of veg friendly brews out there. To start with, if you want to know if your favorite brew is OK to drink, you will have to search not only for animal ingredients or additives, but processing agents.
If you choose locally produced beer, it’s likely easier to ask the brewery whether they use any animal by-products in their fining process. You can also look for German and Belgium beers that follow “purity laws,” which are basically old-school methods. These laws state that only water, grain (barley or wheat), hops and yeast can be used in these beers.
Want to find out about your favorite brew? You can always ask the manufacturer directly. And, there are several great sites that let you search by ingredients or by beer type or name. One of the best is Barnivore, a vegan beer, wine and liquor guide even lets you look up on a “Veganocity” scale.
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