Is beer actually vegan? You may have wondered if you would do without food of animal origin or if you would like to eat less of it. First, the good news: Yes, there is vegan beer! But it is not easy to find it. I’ll tell you which alcoholic drinks are suitable for you as a vegan – and where hide animal ingredients in beer, wine and Co.
The purity requirement and the ingredients that are not on the label
For German beer is the purity requirement, which ensures that a beer consists of exactly four ingredients, namely hops, malt, water and yeast. The first three ingredients are without question of natural origin, but is yeast vegan? Is it a plant? Or maybe even animal? Lucky for all vegan craft beer lovers: The yeast is one of the single-celled mushrooms, which in turn represent a separate group of living things. These microorganisms have no central nervous system and feel nothing – these helpers in beer production are therefore safe for most vegans.
Beer brewing often uses other substances that are not on the label because they are no longer present in the final product. For example, breweries use diatomaceous earth to clarify the beer to filter out suspended solids. Diatomaceous earth is mineral. Filtration methods with substances of animal origin are not normally used in Germany. German beers are vegan. For naturally cloudy beers like Kellerbier this danger does not exist: they are not filtered at all.
The problem with imported beers and beer mixes
The purity requirement does not apply to foreign imports. They may also contain ingredients of animal origin. For example, some brewers use honey to flavor their drink, or clarify the beer with gelatin. Non-vegan gelatin is derived from slaughterhouse waste. It is also possible that the foreign breweries filter the beer with “Hausen” bladder. Behind the funny name “Hausenbladder” hides the Hausen, which is a sturgeon species. In the past, the dried swim bladder of the fish was used to make wine and beer beautiful. Meanwhile, the Hausen sturgeon is under protection of species, which is why the bladder of other fishes are used. A well-known example of this type of clarification was Guinness. By 2017, the Irish put on brewing fish bladders. Meanwhile, they also produce their beer vegan now.
German beer can also contain other ingredients. But then people no longer speak of beer, but of a “mixed beer drink”. Therefore, keep an eye out on Radler and Co .: lemonade, fruit juice or syrup are often also filtered using gelatin and other animal products. If you want to enjoy a vegan beer with lemonade (Radler or Alster) or beer with coke (diesel), you should first check with the manufacturer, if juice and fizzes are vegan – or just dodge for a real clean beer.
German beers are vegan – at least the contents of the bottle. But the devil is, as so often in the details: The glue with which the label is stuck to the bottle, may have animal ingredients. Casein is called the culprit, which can be found in the protein of milk. Vegan alternatives are, for example, adhesives based on starch, resin or synthetic substances.
The best way to obtain information on the adhesive is directly from the manufacturer, he will tell you if the labels are glued vegan. Barnivore.com also offers a list of vegan beers from various countries.
Other alcoholic drinks
For other alcoholic beverages, the situation is not as easy as with beer. Tools for clarifying wines as well as colors and flavorings in mixed drinks make life difficult for vegans.
Wine and sparkling wine
Wine and sparkling wine are usually cleared to filter out unwanted flavor or color changes. For this, the winemakers have various means available, including animal ones. For vintages from 2012 on, EU winegrowers for dairy and egg allergy sufferers must indicate on the label if substances from milk or eggs have been used for clarification. These include casein from cow’s milk or ovalbumin from egg white. That’s how you can tell at least at first glance if the wine is vegetarian. Other animal ingredients like gelatin or the use of a fish bladder do not have to be mentioned yet.
The beauty of the vine juice, however, also works without animal substances. Many winemakers now filter with vegan alternatives such as activated charcoal, vegan gelatin or tannin. On the label you will find a hint that the wine is vegan. In organic food shops you will find a wide selection of vegan wines and even in normal supermarkets, they are increasingly on the shelf.
The shopping guide of PETA2, the youth campaign of the animal rights organization PETA, provides a good overview.
Other alcoholic drinks
Also with other alcoholic drinks it means: open your eyes! For some, you immediately see that they contain animal products, such as eggnog or classic Baileys. The Irish are also offering a vegan version of their famous cream liqueur with “Baileys Almonds”. For other drinks this is not so obvious. Many of the flavors and colors on the labels do not immediately tell you whether they are of animal origin. An example is the food additive E 120, formerly used by Campari and Aperol. Behind the scientific-sounding name hides a red dye, which is of animal origin. The color comes from the females of a certain scale insect, which are dried and then boiled. Other names are “real carmine”, “carmine” or “cochineal” or “koschenille”.
That’s how you recognize vegan beer and other alcoholic beverages
The best way to recognize vegan drinks is to look at the bottle label. Many providers rely on vegan seals, with which you can see at a glance whether the beer or the wine is suitable for you. This includes the V-label of ProVeg International (formerly VEBU), a yellow circle with a green V in it, together with the name “vegan” or “vegetarian”. For more information about the V label, please contact ProVeg International directly. In addition, there is the vegan flower of the Vegan Society, which consists of a white circle with a flower in it, along with the name “vegan”.
In addition, the manufacturers use their own awards for their products. In such a case, you should inform yourself about what the word “vegan” actually means and what exactly is covered by it. If you are not sure whether a beverage is free of ingredients or label adhesive of animal origin, you can also ask the manufacturer directly. So, you get up-to-date information first-hand – and also show that there is interest in vegan beer, wine and other related products.
Beer that is vegan? It does exist!
German beer is mostly vegan. The ingredients are regulated by the German Beer Purity Law. Filtering processes normally do not use any animal substances. Only the label adhesive can be problematic. The situation is different with foreign beers: These may well contain animal ingredients or are used in the production of use. Be careful with beer mixes with juice, syrup or lemonade. Here online databases or the direct demand with the manufacturer helps.
With wine you have to keep your eyes open: You can tell by the label whether the wine is vegan or not. In the meantime, you will receive non-animal wines not only in the organic market, but also at the supermarket around the corner. You should pay attention to other alcoholic drinks such as liqueurs, mixed drinks or cocktails. They sometimes contain colorings and flavorings whose origin is not recognizable on the label.
If you want to be on the safe side, you stick to vegan seals like the V label or the vegan flower. Manufacturers can be certified to receive these labels. So you have the certainty that for your after-work beer no animal had to suffer – and you can enjoy it completely relaxed with a vegan white sausage or a pretzel.