Beer is most commonly made from barley malt, water, hops and yeast, which means it’s usually vegan. Unfortunately, some beer brewers add finings that are not vegan as part of their brewing process, and this means that some beers are not suitable for those trying to live a cruelty-free lifestyle.
There are several ingredients you should look out for in beers if you’re avoiding animal products. You should also pay careful attention to the wine and cider you drink, as these can contain non-vegan ingredients, too.
You're most likely to find isinglass, gelatin, glycerin or casein in non-vegan beers and other alcoholic beverages, but some wines, ciders and beers can also contain milk, eggs and honey. Since vegans seek to exclude products that use or exploit animals within their ingredients or production, this would mean that any alcohol containing those ingredients is not vegan.
Some beer is not vegan because bewers add finings to their brews that include ingredients that are obtained by killing or exploiting animals. If you're vegan, it’s always best to check before you buy a beer whether it contains non-vegan ingredients or not.
Non-vegan beer ingredients include:
If a beer contains any of the above ingredients, this means it is not vegan, and it should be avoided by anybody living a vegan lifestyle. Brewers add these ingredients most commonly because they want to give their beer a clearer appearance.
If you're vegan, there are lots of beers you can buy that do not contain ingredients that required animals to be killed or exploited in order to produce them. In the UK, it's relatively easy to find beers that do not contain isinglass, gelatin, glycerin or casein, the main non-vegan ingredients you’ll find in beers.
The following beers are suitable for vegans:
Isinglass is used to make beer clear. It is taken from the swim bladders of tropical or subtropical fish, and is therefore not vegan. Isinglass was traditionally produced using the swim bladders of sturgeon, but is now more typically derived from species considered invasive.
Swim bladders are taken from the fish and sun dried on site in China, and then exported to the UK to use as a fining for beer.
If you're worried about which beers use isinglass, the best thing to do is check the individual ingredients of the beer you want to buy, or to choose your beer from our list of vegan beers above.
You can also use popular website Barnivore to determine if the beer you're thinking of buying is safe for vegans.
We were unable to find an isinglass beer list. It’s a better idea to search for beers that do not include isinglass, rather than for ones that do.
Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling the skin, tendons, ligaments and bones of animals. It is added to products to clear them, and can often be found in beer, wine, shampoo, face masks and cosmetics. It’s often found in sweets, particularly in marshmallows and jelly candy.
Gelatin is used to clear beers, and is added during the fermentation process, or directly into the beer keg.
Glycerin is known as a hidden non-vegan ingredient, because a lot of people don't realise that it’s often not vegan. Glycerin can be made from plant oil or from animal fats, but many ingredients labels will not specify which form of the ingredient is included, so it might be best to avoid the ingredient if you aren't sure.
Animal-derived glycerin is sometimes called tallow, and is taken from beef or mutton fat.
Casein is a milk ingredient and is not vegan. It is sometimes used as part of the fining process in the production of beer and wine.
Many people have a casein allergy, so it is likely that this ingredient will be highlighted on a bottle of beer if it contains it.
If you're looking for vegan beer in the UK, there are lots of different brands and types to choose from. There are lots of beers you can buy in the UK that do not use isinglass, casein, gelatin or glycerin within their fining process, and are therefore most likely vegan. Below is a list of the most popular ones.
You can also use the website Barnivore, which will tell you if the beer you are thinking about buying is vegan or not.
There are a number of vegan beer festivals held annually in the UK. There, you can try a whole range of beers, safe in the knowledge that their production did not contribute to the death, suffering or exploitation of any sentient beings.
Despite having the same name, many beers have different ingredients when brewed and sold abroad than they do when they're in the UK, so it’s really important that you check the brewing processes of the beer you are buying in the country you're in.
Don't rely on websites talking about UK beers, as the ingredients could be different, and the beer might not be vegan. Make sure you use the name of the country you're in when you use a search engine to look for information.