The helpful folks over at Barnivore, The Vegan Alcohol Directory, ask the following question: “Is your booze vegan?
It might seem weird at first, but your favorite drink might have more than just alcohol in it. Brewmasters, winemakers, and distillers may include animal ingredients such as milk or honey in their products directly, or they might use them in processing and filtration.
When filtering drinks prior to bottling, companies can use things like isinglass (from fish bladder), gelatin, egg whites, and sea shells, among other things. These products grab onto the impurities and make it easier to catch them in the filters, though there are many animal-free alternatives in use.
You can’t see them, you can’t smell or taste them, and these ingredients don’t show up on the label, so the only way to find out is to ask. What a chore! But, now you can celebrate St. Patrick’s day with confidence – vegan style!
Here are my Top 5 picks from Barnivore:
1. George Killian’s Irish Red
(I haven’t been able to confirm Killian’s Irish Stout is vegan)
I’ve chosen these based on their Irish-ness, high confidence that they are vegan, and because they are commonly available. But just remember, you don’t have to drink all 5 to have a good time!
There are many other vegan beers out there, many from microbreweries too numerous to mention here. When in doubt; stick to the Irish Reds, Irish Lagers, and Irish Whiskeys. Still not sure? Ask the brewer when you get the chance, and add your findings to the directory.
What’s NOT a Vegan-Friendly Choice this St. Patrick’s Day?
Guiness Stout: There is great confusion surrounding whether Guinness is indeed vegan-friendly. It is certain that Guinness in the UK is made using isinglass as a fining agent. However, in North America, Guinness is made in Canada, and the brewers there claim they don’t use isinglass. However, I’m not convinced, because I don’t know what they’re using as a replacement for isinglass. The company makes no promises about this; it is subject to change over time and depending on the regional distributors.
Murphy’s Irish Stout: Isinglass is used as a fining agent.
More Helpful Guidelines
- Many stouts contain lactose, a milk derivative (especially any stout described as a “Milk Stout” probably really does contain dairy products).
- Most beers that have been conditioned in a cask or firkin are traditionally filtered using isinglass.
- Honey beers, honey stouts, and all mead contains honey.
Cheers and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Image Credit: Landfeldt/Flickr