Two hundred and twenty-nine

Beer, wine and spirits – are they vegan?

I never really thought about liquor, beer and wine having animal products in them.  They are plant-based drinks, why would they need animal?  The more I research about veganism, though, the more I find that a lot of products have hidden ingredients we don’t know about, or animal products are used in the making of the product.  Apparently alcoholic beverages fit into this category.

Beer

Many brewers use animal-products in their brewing process for clarifying agents, head retention, flavour and colouring.  There are no regulations that require beer labels to mention non-vegan ingredients, therefore it is sometimes hard to tell whether what you are drinking is animal-free.  Here is a list of ingredients that are commonly used in beer from NoMeatAthlete.com:

  • Isinglass – Clarifier that is very common in brewing. 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 – 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.
  • Charcoal – Used for filtering. A portion is usually produced from animal bones.
  • Diatomaceous earth – Used in filtering. Comes from fossils or sea shells.
  • Insects – Made into dyes and used for coloring.
  • Glyceryl monostearate – Animal derived substance used to control foam.
  • Pepsin – Also used to control foam; it is sometimes derived from pork.
  • White sugar – Flavor additive often whitened using bone charcoal.
  • Albium – Refers to any protein that is water soluble. Most common type in brewing is serum albumin, which is taken from animal blood.
  • Lactose – Beers labeled as sweet, milk, or cream stouts may or may not contain lactose.  Sometimes the description refers to the texture and not the ingredient.  It’s best to double check these to be sure.  Milk chocolate is common in certain styles, but some so-called “chocolate” porters or stouts actually contain no real chocolate at all. Some malted barley is called “chocolate malt” simply to describe the flavor the roasting imparts.

According to the book Animal Ingredients A to Z, Third Edition, originally compiled by the EG Smith Collective, although gelatin used to be widely used in beer manufacturing in the United States, it’s now a less common practice.  However, outside of the United States the use of animal-derived products is fairly widespread, as it has always been done this way and there is not much demand for change.  Although most German beers are vegan because Bavarian purity laws limit them to only four ingredients: water, grain, hops and yeast.

Barnivore.com is a fantastic website listing all the types of beer and whether they are vegan (some beer companies offer vegan and non-vegan beer, for instance a honey brew is not vegan, but their lager is).  A few interesting non-vegan beers that I can’t drink for this month: Bulmer/Magners Irish Cider; Carlsberg from Australia isn’t vegan-friendly but Carlsberg from Canada is; Foster’s; Guinness (uses isinglass to clarify); Smithwicks; Kilkenny; Newcastle Brown Ale; San Miguel; Sol; Strongbow (animal product in colouring).

Wine

Some wine companies also use animal-derived products in the fining process, including isinglass, gelatin, egg albumen (from battery eggs), modified casein (from milk), chitin (from shells of crabs or lobsters), and ox blood.  These products help to remove protein, yeast, cloudiness, “off” flavour and colourings and other organic particles.  There are however several common fining agents that are animal-friendly and can be used in the wine-making process to produce vegan wine. (PETA.org) Generally organic wines do not contain animal ingredients.  Fortified wines are generally fined with gelatin. (Animal Ingredients A to Z, Third Edition)

To find a list of vegan wines, go to Vegan Wine Guide, or once again Barnivore.com.  A few popular wines that I can’t drink this month and use animal products are: Barefoot Cellars; Beaulieu Vineyards; Beringer Vineyards; Blackstone Winery; Bonterra Vineyards red wine (they use egg whites – damn, I have some of that in my cupboard and they are organic); Cakebread Cellars; Fat Bastard; Fetzer red wines; Henry of Pelham; J. Lohr; Inniskillin ice and white wines (clarified with skim milk powder); Jacob’s Creek; Kim Crawford; Lindemans; Meridian Vineyards; Peller Estates; Ravenswood; Rosemount Estate, Robert Mondavi; Stoneleigh; Villa Maria; Wolf Blass.

Spirits

Most liquors are considered vegan friendly, but once again check at Barnivore.com for specifics.  Some vodka is made by passing it through a bone charcoal filter.  Of course there are those liqueurs that have cream or honey in them, which are obviously not vegan, such as Bailey’s Irish Cream or Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur.

One hundred and forty-six

Revelation in online shopping: you can buy beer, liquor and wine online and have it delivered to your house!

Many of us have used the infamous ‘dial-a-bottle’ at some point.  It’s late, you’ve gone to a friend’s house after work or being out, and you run out of alcohol.  You want to keep the party going, but aren’t about to get up and move to someone else’s house.  You call dial-a-bottle.  Some sketchy guy out of the trunk of his old car delivers a case of beer and a bottle of vodka for double what you would pay at the liquor store.  He looks around to see if any cops are around, you hand him cash (with a good tip, because you are pretty tipsy and he’s kind enough to deliver the booze late even though it’s illegal and he’s charging you plenty over what he paid) and he speeds off.

But buying alcohol online is new to me.  Along comes The Beer Guy.  A legal version of dial-a-bottle.  They operate only during LCBO hours of operation (no late-night deliveries from them).  They don’t mark up any prices – the same as LCBO and The Beer Store.  They deliver to the GTA, Burlington, Oakville, Hamilton, London, and even Sudbury (full list of cities they deliver to here).

Delivery charges – the minimum delivery charge depends on your city (Toronto is $10) and an overage charge of $1.50 can also apply for the each of the following:
• every 12 bottles of beer over 36 bottles of beer
• every 1 bottle of liquor over 3 bottles of liquor
• every 1 bottle of wine over 3 bottles of wine
• a required stop at BOTH the LCBO and The Beer Store

Now I haven’t actually used this service yet.  I was going to last night, but I finished work too late and as I said earlier, they are only open for liquor store hours.  But I will try it out and I’ll let you know how it goes.  There are many great testimonials on the website, if you’re weary about the company.  It seems pretty legit.

“Many house partiers are disappointed when the booze runs out. So what does a person do next?  You may want to switch to another house, or hit up a local bar or club, but finally there is a better option available for everyone. People can order more beer, liquor or spirits, or wine ONLINE through The Beer Guy, the first online alcohol delivery service. Your order will be there within ONE hour of ordering, so when you notice you’re starting to run low, go to http://www.thebeerguy.ca/ and place an order for more! It’s that simple!”

I can see how this would be great if you don’t have a car and don’t want to carry the beer or liquor to your house.  Or maybe during the winter if it’s really cold and you don’t feel like heading outside.  But how often do you run out of alcohol by 9:45pm (when the company closes most days)?  I wonder how busy they actually are?

Day one hundred and eight

Germany

In my frustration with my lack of planning two days ago and my annoyance at myself  for trying to think of an idea for a meal at the last minute, I have planned out my next week of international recipes.  I decided the best place to shop for these ingredients was the St. Lawrence Market.  For those of you not from Toronto, the St. Lawrence Market is a large building downtown Toronto that holds over 120 specialty merchants and vendors, including butchers, cheesemongers, fresh fruit and vegetables, little knick-knack shops.  I always forget how much money I end up spending when I go there, and yesterday was no exception.  The high-end feta cheese for my greek salad later this week cost $8, the kangaroo (yep, kangaroo – yum!) was $21.50 for one steak, the olives, the sausages, the veggies – I ended up spending over $60 on one bag of groceries.

However, when I savour the oktoberfest sausage bought from “the best sausages in town” stall complemented with sweet and smoky mustard and Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier (Bavarian style wheat beer), it seems worth the money.  Sausage and beer – what else would I have to salute Germany?  I only wish I had a stein to drink my beer out of!

Here are some different kinds of German sausage from globalgourmet.com:

“Almost all wurst features pork (and sometimes beef or veal), spices, and peppercorns, but the other ingredients make each wurst distinctive. More than a thousand varieties of wurst exist, some being available everywhere and others are local specialties. Here are a few of them:

  • Bierschinken—a large slicing sausage with chunks of ham and pistachios
  • Bierwurst—coarse-textured slicing sausage flavored with juniper berries and cardamom
  • Blutwurst—blood sausage, which comes in many varieties; it is eaten sliced and cold or fried like black pudding
  • Bockwurst—smoked and scalded, usually made from finely ground veal; spiced with chives and parsley; resembles a large frankfurter; gently heat in liquid before eating; traditionally served with Bock beer, especially in the spring
  • Bratwurst—a pale, smoked sausage made of finely minced veal, pork, ginger, nutmeg and other spices; usually comes raw and must be cooked, but precooked bratwurst is also available (reheat before serving)
  • Braunschweiger—a spreadable smoked liver sausage enriched with eggs and milk; the most well known of the liverwurst sausages
  • Cervelat—similar to Italian salami, a slicing sausage of pork and beef, spices and often mustard or garlic; Thuringer is a common variety of German cervelat
  • Frankfurter—the genuine German variety (not the same as an American frankfurter) contains finely chopped lean pork with a bit of salted bacon fat, and is smoked; reheat in simmering liquid
  • Knockwurstknackwurst—a short, plump smoked sausage needing poaching or grilling; contains finely minced lean pork, beef, spices and, notably, garlic; often served with sauerkraut
  • Wienerwurst—believed to be the origin of American frankfurter; beef and pork flavored with coriander and garlic
  • Weisswurst—German for “white sausage” and is very pale and delicately flavored; made of veal, sometimes beef and pork, cream and eggs; a specialty of Munich and traditionally served at Oktoberfest with rye bread, sweet mustard and of course, beer.”

And here’s a blast from the past.  A photo of me drinking beer in Munich eight years ago:

Tonight

Apparently the best Thai restaurant in Toronto – we shall see about that…