If you have started the year by going vegan, or are already vegan, it is probably a good time to have a better look into what vegans can, or cannot, drink. In theory, vegans should be able to drink spirits, but as this new craft distilling has brought us new and exciting liquors, such as vodka made from whey, it is certain that they are not all vegan.
I know many vegans who don’t care much about their drinking choices. If they feel like drinking a beer they don’t worry whether it is vegan or not. I guess when you think about alcohol you really don’t expect there to be any meat or fish in it. Maybe the occasional egg white or milk in a cocktail, but not fish. But after researching this article, I feel like I might start paying attention to what’s in my beers and wines a bit more…
Let’s look at this in more depth by category.
Beers & Ciders
Have you heard about isinglass? The swim bladder of fish is removed, processed and dried, and then it is used for various purposes, including the clarification/filtering of beer (known as ‘fining’). Basically, the brewing industry uses it for the production of cask ales. The isinglass finings help to turn the live yeast in beer into a jelly-like mass, which will then clear the beer naturally.
There are some cask ales that are not fined with isinglass, and those that have been fined with it won’t have much of it remaining after the process is finished. It is up to the vegetarian/vegan to decide whether to take this into consideration. These beers are suitable for pescatarians. Some bottled beers, cans and keg lagers are also pasteurised and sometimes use isinglass for fining.
This method is very common, especially in the UK, but unfortunately it is not mentioned on the beer labels. You can also find beers that contain honey or gelatin, and some ciders are also fined using gelatin. Recently, some popular cider brands have changed their production methods, but there are still some non vegan brands. For example, Magners Original and Koppaberg ciders use several animal by-products in the filtration process. Also many Bulmers ciders in Ireland aren’t vegan.
Examples of vegan beer & cider include: Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Anchor Brewing Company, Budweiser & Bud Light, Guinness, Cornish Orchards Cider, Stowford Press, Rekorderlig, Aspall, products by Bulmers UK Ltd, Old Rosie Cloudy Cider, Thistly Cross Cider, and the Thatchers range
Check my friend, The Vegan Punk, for more info on lagers, ales and ciders available in the UK.
Many winemakers use vegan ingredients or they allow the wines to settle without the fining process. The fining process is similar to the one with beer. Fining is basically the process that captures sediments using foreign ingredients.
However, in winemaking, some of these ingredients may be isinglass, gelatin, casein or albumin (egg white). As with many beer labels, these ingredients are unlikely to be found on the wine label.
Port can be fined using gelatin, and sherry can be treated in similar ways to wine.
Examples of vegan wine include: Yellowtail (Australia, red only), Frey Vineyard (US), all the wines from Araldica Vini (Italy), Veuve Clicquot Champagne – to name but a few. There are actually many vegan-friendly wines available, but if you want to be sure it might be a good idea to check your favourites online.
Spirits & Liqueurs
I guess it goes without saying if you are vegan you should avoid spirits made with honey or whey as well as all the cream liqueurs, although Bailey’s recently released an almond-milk-based liqueur, which may be suitable for vegans. They have two versions of the almond liqueur; the vegan friendly one has a sign on the label to indicate as much.
E120 is a colour dye made from crushed insects (carmine). E120 was used to create the bright red colour for Campari, but this has now been replaced, with an artificial colouring. However, there are small amounts of gelatin used during the filtration process and therefore Campari is not vegan friendly.
Spirits & liqueurs to avoid: Black Cow Vodka, Arbikie AK’s Gin (it has honey in it), Whisky or other spirit aged in sherry or port casks, Anty Gin (made with ants), Asda’s Vermouth range, Carpano Vermouth, Yellow Chartreuse (honey)
How much attention do you pay to the production methods of alcohol? If you are vegan, I would love to hear your thoughts about alcohol: do you choose vegan products when drinking?