Is Beer Vegan?
From an outsiders perspective, the question might seems silly. Beer, after all, is made from plants and water. At its most basic, the ingredients to make beer are simple: water, malt, hops, yeast; all of which are clearly non-animal. And while brewmasters have a way of working everything from bacon to whole chickens into their beer, the biggest culprits are more subtle.
Sometimes, the de-veganized beers are easy to spot, a milk stout that uses lactose, or a honey kolsch, but more often than not, our veggie loving beer friends are in the dark as to whether an animal part has made its way into their pints. Since the CDC, the TTB, the FDA and all the other acronym loving agencies that have their grubby paws in what we consume do not require anyone to disclose the use of animal byproducts in the processing of food or beverages, it often gets left off the label (in fact, almost always).
The biggest offenders are what brewers use to clarify beer. While the need for clarifying is often done with non animal ingredients, or replaced with a centrifuge machine, it’s still common for breweries to use ingredients like gelatin or fish bladders as clarifying agents rendering beer not only non-vegan but non-vegetarian. There is also the foam control issue, and I’m not talking about the frothing of the mouth that occurs when your favorite stout is on Nitro, but the desire brewers have to give you that perfect level of foam head on your pints. To gain control on that lovely can’t-you-settle-yet-I-need-a-drink-now head on your beer, brewers have been known to use pepsin (made from pigs) or albium (made from animal blood) to give you the perfect pour.
But if you are one of the growing numbers of craft beer loving veggie devotees, don’t despair. Many, many breweries are hip to your vibe, vegan beer is a concern for many. When it comes to finding out if your beer is sans-beasts, google is your friend. Also, websites like Barnivore give a great and growing list of vegan friendly breweries and beers.
For this recipe I used Sierra Nevada Porter, a vegan beer. In fact, as a company, Sierra Nevada is 100% vegan friendly.
As an addendum to this, it needs to be mentioned that there is nothing wrong with the use of animal products in beer. Milk stout is a favorite of mine, and a good honey kolsch is great to pair with a summer cook out. However, disclosure is key and giving people the information they need to keep the diet they choose is a way to keep us all friends in this craft beer community.