How To Find Out If Your Beer Is Actually Vegan

Wait, there are fish bladders in ... what?

Dr Chris Mohr |

Thankfully veganism has grown significantly in recent times in SA, so most companies have tailor made products to the growing community. But there is one area that still poses a challenge: vegan beer.

Related: How The Internet Can Help You Go Vegan, From Veganuary & Beyond

Just to be clear, veganism means absolutely nothing in the diet can come from animal products (fish, chicken, or steak) and byproducts of animal origin (milk, eggs, honey).

Beer is made with hops, grains, and water. So beer is vegan, right?

No and yes.

Here’s why some beers aren’t vegan.

Beers can contain other ingredients beyond the basics that come from animal products. These are often obvious: honey beer, milk stout (they contain lactose), oyster stouts (yes, they’re brewed with actual oysters).

But they can also contain fish guts.

You read that correctly: fish guts.

Craft beer brewing isn’t a modern invention. In fact, modern brewers often turn to old-school techniques and traditions to make beer. One of these techniques involves using something called “finings.”

Related: These Beer Lovers Created A Workout To Help You Earn Your Booze

Finings are a form of gelatin that come from boiling the skin, cartilage, and bones of animals. “Isinglass,” a type of fining (stick with me here), comes from the swim bladders of sturgeon or tropical fish.

Now, how this use was discovered is beyond me, but, regardless, finings help remove yeast and the resultant protein haze from beer.

Why is that important? Hang on to your beer-nerd hats.

While hazy IPAs are popular right now, there’s a reason why hazy porters and stouts are not, and it has to do with bottle conditioning.

Brewers deploy bottle conditioning to carbonate beer and help the live yeast stay, well, living. Some brewers believe that allowing the yeast to continue to work after bottling means it improves with age (more like wine—and my wife).

Related: 6 Low Calorie, No Alcohol Drinks To Try At Your Next Braai

There’s a challenge with following those brewing techniques, however. The yeast can eventually die and create unpleasant flavours.

So yeast is a double-edged sword. While it may help improve the flavours of a beer, it may also not. Finings help remove that X-factor, even if that means breweries can’t sell that beer as vegan.

And because transparency is the buzzword of the decade, most brewers will list everything and anything that goes into their beers so consumers can ultimately decide what they want to eat or drink.

Budweiser and Bud Light are vegan. As are Michelob, Michelob Ultra, and even Natural Light. There’s a flight of craft brewers offering a range of vegan beers, which you can all find here.

Guinness, which made headlines a few years ago for using finings, is also now vegan.

Like with anything you consume, read the label, whether you’re vegan or not.

As published 

READ MORE ON: beer craft beer vegan veganism veganuary

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