In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Can vegans drink alcohol?” and will discuss a full guide of alcohol consumption by vegans.
Can vegans drink alcohol?
Yes, vegans can drink alcohol. Vegan alcoholic beverages are those that do not include any animal ingredients, such as spirits, beer, wine, and hard cider. Vegans, like others who follow a plant-based diet, abstain from ingesting animal products, including non-vegan alcohol. Isinglass, produced from dried fish swim bladders, gelatine, formed from cooked bones, flesh, and ligaments, casein, a protein from cow’s milk, and albumin from egg whites are the most frequent non-vegan components in alcohol. Fining agents are commonly used to provide limpidity and stabilization of wines and other alcoholic beverages, but also to improve their organoleptic properties. They can eliminate or reduce some phenolic compounds of colloidal nature implicated on oxidation phenomena or wine astringency (2).
Some beers, wines, and ciders include animal ingredients, which may come as a surprise to you. This is because several components are concealed, such as the filtering material isinglass. For this reason, it’s difficult to tell which vegan beverages contain no animal ingredients while looking at the label.
According to recent data published by the World Health Organization (WHO), the total per capita consumption of alcohol by individuals above 15 years of age is 6.2 L of pure alcohol per year, which equals 13.5 g of pure alcohol per day. However, there is a wide variation between the WHO regions and member states. Nearly 5.1% of the global burden of disease is attributable to alcohol consumption, and it causes nearly 3.3 million deaths every year (1).
How come certain beers, wines, and cocktails aren’t vegan?
Products used in the filtering process, such as isinglass, gelatine, and casein, may make beer, wine, and hard cider non-vegan (3). Non-vegan flavorings like honey and certain drinks made with milk and eggs may also be found. The castoreum flavoring used in certain beverages is obtained from the deceased beavers’ castor sacs (near to the anal glands) (4).
If you don’t want to use isinglass, you may filter your alcoholic beverages using egg whites or chitin, which is a protein derived from crab shells, instead. Other ingredients used in some contemporary craft beers include lactose, honey, and just about anything else you can think of. Cock-ale, a popular beer in the 17th and 18th centuries, included a whole chicken corpse during the brewing process, making it particularly repulsive (5).
What other options are there that aren’t meat-based?
Many beers, wines, and ciders spontaneously settle; thus, a filtering agent isn’t necessary. Brewing in an old-fashioned manner is still quite popular, despite its simplicity. There are indeed vegan substitutes for isinglass, such as the moss-derived carrageenan and bentonite (6). Clarifying agents such as wheat gluten, activated charcoal, potassium caseinate and polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP) are also used (2).
In terms of flavorings, vegan options abound and may spice up your beverage without adding any more cruelty to the process. Most brewers use various mixes of hops to produce distinct flavors, and you may even discover vegan additives like berries and citrus fruits. Mandarina Bavaria is a “Special Flavor” hop variety, described as fruity, with pronounced mandarin and citrus, combined with traditional hoppy sensations (7).
To speed up the fining and clarifying process in cask ale, isinglass is frequently employed. This implies that the beer’s yeast will sink to the bottom of the barrel more quickly. Fining is completely optional since the clarifying process will proceed spontaneously if the beer is not disturbed. The truth is, many contemporary brewers claim that their naturally hazy and unfined ales provide superior flavor profiles and tongue feel. Polyphenols and protein material contribute to non-biological haze in beer. The role of polyphenols, for example anthocyanogens and catechins and polymers thereof, is as contributors to beer characteristics such as astringency, bitterness, body and fullness (8).
The other kind of beer is vegan non-cask beer since beers meant for kegs, bottles, and cans are pasteurized or filtered without isinglass because yeast normally falls to the bottom of storage tanks in these types of beer packaging. Non-cask beers are becoming more and more vegan, even though some still utilize isinglass to speed up the fining process.
The membrane filtration of beer in the brewing industry is on the rise. It is an advantageous method not only from an ecological point of view, as it obviates the treatment of used kieselguhr, but also in terms of filtration efficiency. Filter materials are divided into three basic groups: 1. fibrous (cotton-based filtration material, synthetic fabrics, cellulose); 2. granular and powdered (kieselguhr, perlite, combined material with cellulose fibers, silica gel, activated carbon); 3. porous (plastic, metal or ceramics membranes (9).
Where do we even begin with all the vegan beers? Here are a few of our favorites that are readily accessible to the general public. However, we strongly advise you to visit your local craft brewers as well!
Fining in wine makes it sometimes non-vegan. In the same way that beer is fine to produce a crystal-clear finish, the wine will do the same thing. Fining agents like albumin, which is produced from egg whites, may speed up the process, although manufacturers seldom use them (2). Even after these chemicals have been eliminated from the finished product, the wine will still have traces of them.
Cider has a similar scenario, but there’s also the problem of gelatine in there. When it comes to flavored ciders, some include gelatine. Albumin from eggs and casein from milk are also used to produce ciders (3). However, all is not lost, since Old Mout and many well-known brands, such as Thatcher’s and Stowford Press, still provide flavorful cider. As a bonus, the spontaneous fermentation in huge oak barrels makes classic scrumpy hazy. As a result, there’s no need to be concerned about unnoticed fines.
Liqueurs and spirits
For those of you who like a good G&T, the good news is that almost every kind of alcohol and liqueur is vegan. It all boils down to the method of manufacturing. Spirits are made by fermenting grain or sugar to produce alcohol, then distilling them. Fermentations for the production of whisky and other distilled spirits derived from cereals are conducted by specific strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae which convert mash sugars into ethanol, carbon dioxide and numerous secondary fermentation metabolites that collectively act as flavor congeners in the final spirit (10). Extra water is distilled off, leaving a considerably stronger drink behind. As a result, there is no need for a fines agent!
Some manufacturers of bourbon and whiskey (particularly) use honey as a flavoring, and this is often noted on the bottle. Bailey’s Irish Cream Liqueur, for example, has milk as an ingredient. This brings me to Baileys Almande, the first vegan liqueur!
Even though it’s become common knowledge, certain drinks, including the White Russian, include ingredients derived from animals. Whiskey Sours and Milk Manhattans both use egg whites and honey as their sweeteners (often paired with Bourbon).
Moreover, some establishments go the cheap and unpleasant way by using cow’s milk or cream in their pina Coladas. However, fresh pineapple, coconut cream, and white rum are the traditional and greatest Pina Coladas. However, many timeless favorites, like Cosmopolitan, are always vegan. Mojito! Martini! Even if you’re vegan, you can still have a good time.
Other FAQs about Vegans that you may be interested in.
In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Can vegans drink alcohol?” and discussed a full guide of alcohol consumption by vegans.
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- Ren, Mengmeng, et al. Clarifying effect of different fining agents on mulberry wine. Int J Food Sci Technol, 2020, 55, 1578-1585.
- Popping, Bert, and Carmen Diaz-Amigo. European regulations for labeling requirements for food allergens and substances causing intolerances: history and future. J AOAC Int, 2018, 101, 2-7.
- Chourasia, Shivani, Prachi Gautam, and Shriya Singh. Emergence of different sources for the production of natural flavors. Food Agric Spec J, 2021, 2, 248-255.
- Lahnalampi, Benjamin. Craft Beer Marketing. Do You Have to be First, Best, or Unique to Succeed?. 2016.
- Ratnayake, S., et al. Carrageenans as heat stabilisers of white wine. Austr J Grape Wine Res, 2019, 25, 439-450.
- Machado Jr, Júlio C., et al. Prediction of Fruity-Citrus Intensity of Beers Dry Hopped with Mandarina Bavaria Based on the Content of Selected Volatile Compounds. J agric food chem, 2020, 68, 2155-2163.
- Langstaff, Susan A., and M. J. Lewis. The mouthfeel of beer—a review. J Instit Brew, 1993, 99, 31-37.
- Slabý, Martin, Karel Štěrba, and Jana Olšovská. Filtration of Beer–A Review. Kvasny Prumysl, 2018, 64, 173-184.
- Walker, Graeme M., and Graham G. Stewart. Saccharomyces cerevisiae in the production of fermented beverages. Beverages, 2016, 2, 30.