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.
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).
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.
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.