Is Alcohol Vegan?
The veggie offender here generally comes in the form of the fining agent, but can sometimes be directly related to the ingredient list (e.g campari is made with cochineal. See above). It’s also possible that anti foaming agents used in alcohols may be un-veggie.
Non vegan fining agents include things like isinglass (from the swim bladders of fish), gelatin (extracted from the collagin of animal skin and bones… mmm cow hoof!), casein (from milk), egg (whites or albumen), ox blood (rarely used these days), bone charcoal, or chitin (from lobster and/or crab shells). Alcohols, in order from least to most likely to be vegan friendly, are as follows: beer and fortified wines, cider, wine and sherry, and spirits. Beers and ales which have been cask conditioned are incredibly rarely vegan, let alone vegetarian, and the same goes for fortified port wines.
The question that follows is why these agents are used in the first place. The description that follows is vague and not at all detailed, provided as nothing more than a basic explanation. Essentially, when you produce alcohol (especially yeasty dark ales) you are left with of sediment which floats suspended in the brew. The fining agent helps to capture the sediment and pull it to the bottom, therefore improving the clarity. The sediment will settle naturally, but fining agents simply speed up the process.
A few tips:
- Most US produced beers are vegan too.
- Actually, there are loads and loads of veg-friendly alcohols and an excellent resource for this information is available from Barnivore.
- If you’re in the UK, stores like Co op are very good about marking vegan products, including alcohol. Sainsbury’s too.