Sustainability made simple

Is Beer Vegan? What Vegans Need to Know

Beer for Vegans Sunset
Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / Free-Photos

Is beer vegan? Sure, you might think so – but it’s actually not that simple. Here’s everything you need to know about beer for vegans.

Beer usually contains just two ingredients besides water: hops and barley. (The yeast used to make beer is a single-celled organism. Vegans don’t consider it part of the animal kingdom. Find out more about how yeast is made here.) So, nothing but plants – beer must be vegan, right?

Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that. A lot of commercially produced drinks, including some brands of beer, contain flavors or coloring of animal origin. One well-known example is the bright red carmine pigment obtained from cochineal insects.

Numerous products used to clarify beverages, such as gelatin or casein, also come from animals. During clarification – also called fining – these clarifiers bind the solid matter which can make beer (or wine) cloudy. The manufacturers then filter these particles out. The problem here is that clarifiers count as processing aids, and do not necessarily have to be listed on the label. (And even the glue used to stick that label to the bottle might be animal-based!) This all means there’s no certain way of knowing if your beer is for vegans or not. But many brands now guarantee that their products are suitable for vegans.

Is American Beer Vegan? Which Brand To Buy

Green Hops
Much of the beer made in the USA is vegan. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / Rita E)

Fortunately for all you vegan beer drinkers out there, most of both the mass-market and more craft-style American beer is vegan. Budweiser, Coors, and Miller (including their Light versions) are all vegan, for example.

What if you’re looking for a vegan beer which maybe scores a little more highly on the sustainability – and flavor – front? The craft breweries Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn Brewery, and the New Belgium Brewing Company all offer a huge variety of beer for vegans. Each of these companies has also made numerous commitments to sustainability, be it by planting trees or reusing waste. There are green craft breweries all over the United States, from Alaska to Texas, so you don’t have to import your vegan beer from a long way away.

German beer generally is vegan, too. German brands, which are very popular in the States, have to follow the German beer purity laws. Those have been around since 1516 and are very strict – no additives allowed. And if the beers are filtered at all (which the popular wheat beers, for example, aren’t anyway), breweries almost always use plant-based kiesel algae. Of course, the emissions involved in transporting something as heavy as a crate of beer across the Atlantic don’t make this option very sustainable for US beer drinkers.

These Beers May Contain Animal Products

Selection of Craft Beers
Usually it should be pretty clear if a beer is suitable for vegans or not. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / harassevarg)

Some craft breweries make beers with creative additions like milk or honey. Obviously, these beers are not vegan. However, some of the more harmless things that beer can be mixed with, like fruit juices and lemonade, may not be vegan either. Like beer itself, manufacturers often clarify these products with gelatin. It’s always worth checking if all a brewery’s beverages really are vegan.

And finally: Whether it is vegan or not, alcohol should always be consumed responsibly. Even small amounts can reduce your life expectancy.

This article was translated from German into English by Will Tayler. You can read the original here: Ist Bier vegan? Das sollten Veganer wissen

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