The Real Reason Some Beer Isn't Vegan

Sticking to a strict vegan diet can be trickier than you'd think. According to WebMD, people who follow the vegan diet typically do not consume any animal products, including milk, butter, eggs, and honey — all things that are commonly used in many types of cooking and baking. While it would be easy to assume some food and drinks are automatically vegan, if you take a closer look at the ingredients, you will often find animal-derived products hidden in them.

Beer is one product that is generally assumed to be vegan — but occasionally is not. Billion Vegans claims that some ingredients, like milk or honey, are easier to spot than others. These additives are typically included in the ingredients list, but are also frequently obvious from the name of the beer, as is the case with milk stouts. 

Plant Based News notes most beer is in fact vegan, as it is usually made from barley malt, water, hops, and yeast, which are all plant-based ingredients. Some beers that are not considered vegan use animal products, like isinglass and gelatin, in the brewing process to make the color of the beer clearer. American Craft Beer defines isinglass as a type of gelatin made from fish bladders, which is decidedly not vegan.

Why these animal products in beer don't have to be listed with the ingredients

The Kitchn refers to these filtration additives as "finings" and claims they can be harder to spot when used in the production of beer than other more familiar ingredients. These finings are introduced during the brewing process and, given that they are not part of the final product, do not have to be listed with the ingredients, even though most vegans would object to their use. 

They state the best way to avoid these hidden animal products is to purchase beer made using modern brewing methods, as mostly only very traditional breweries still use animal-based finings today. The Kitchn asserts the reason for this is that modern filtration equipment is easier to store and frequently provides better, clearer results than the traditional methods. 

If you want to be absolutely sure the beer you are drinking is vegan, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals created a list of beers that claim not to use animal-derived products at any point during the brewing process.