In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is beer vegetarian?” and will discuss vegetarian-friendly breweries.
Is beer vegetarian?
Yes, most beers are vegetarian. In many cases, beer is created from barley malt, water (and sometimes hop flavoring), and yeast, making it a good choice for vegans and vegetarians alike. Some brewers add finings to their barrel-aged beers to improve clarity and prevent sedimentation. Fining agents are used for the removal of organic compounds, either to improve clarity or adjust flavor/aroma (1). Animal items like isinglass and gelatin as well as plant-derived ones like Irish or minerals such as bentonite. The use of animal products in fining of some beers makes them unacceptable for vegetarians.
In beer, water represents more than 90% of its composition. Carbohydrates are the major nonvolatile component in beer with 3.3–4.4%, which comprise mainly dextrins (75–80%), monosaccharides, and oligosaccharides (20–30%), and pentosans (5–8%). Fermentation leads to the production of ethanol and a series of by-products, including other alcohols, carbonyl compounds, esters, aldehydes, and acids. The final alcohol content usually ranges from 1.0% to 6.0%, depending on the type of beer (6).
Beer ingredients unsuitable for vegetarians
Only in the 19th century did beer glasses become popular and British cask ale is served unfiltered, according to Roger Protz, a British writer.
Several types of beers don’t need to be filtered since they don’t include animal ingredients, but British cask ale brewers don’t do this. To keep the yeast in suspension that fermented the wort, and converted sugars from barley into ethanol, beer must be unfiltered. The yeast that remains in the beer gives it a hazy look and a yeasty flavor. To remove the yeast from the beer, finings are employed — these include silicon dioxide, gelatin, polyclar, and isinglass – but there are many more agents that may be used as finings.
The primary causes of haze in beer are residual protein and suspended yeast cells left at the end of the fermentation process. Proline-rich proteins in beverages bind with polyphenols non-covalently to produce haze active particles. The size of the haze active particles is influenced by the ratio of haze active protein to polyphenol as well as the pH and alcohol content of the beer. Solid-liquid separation processes (finings solution, adsorption, filtration or centrifugation) are used in haze active beverages to remove these particles. The largest component of isinglass is collagen, which carries a net positive charge when it is dispersed in beer. The side chains attract the negatively charged yeast cells and the whole complex precipitates and can be removed from the beer (2).
Clearing cask ale with isinglass is the most usual practice. If you use isinglass to clear your cask ale, it isn’t considered a vegetarian product since it’s made from the swim bladders of fish, such as sturgeon, but it may also come from polynemidae, sciaenids, and silurids.
It is known that the use of finings not only changes the appearance but also the taste/ flavor of beer. The problem with the use of finings is that they also bind with proteins and hop oils and consequently tend to ‘suck’ out some of the flavor from the beer (1).
Glycerol monostearate, which is used to generate a froth or head on the final beer, is an example of an animal product utilized in the latter stages of beer manufacturing. Glyceryl monostearate is an emulsifier and is prepared by glycerolysis of certain fats or oils that are derived from edible sources or by esterification, with glycerin, of stearic acid that is derived from edible sources (3).
In certain beers, honey is used as an addition to enhance flavor and sweetness. Bee honey is not acceptable for vegans, even though it is commonly seen as safe for vegetarians. It is formed by the action of the enzyme honey invertase on nectar gathered by bees. The composition and flavor varies with the plant source of the nectar, processing, and storage. A typical composition is 41 percent fructose, 34 percent glucose, 18 percent water, and 2 percent sucrose with a pH of 3.8 to 4.2. It is used in foods as a sweetener (3).
A sugar found in milk, lactose, may be found in certain beers, notably milk stouts, which are not acceptable for those who do not consume dairy products. In beer, lactose may be used as a means of improving organoleptic quality, because it is not fermented by beer yeasts (5).
What is gelatin, and how is it employed in the production of alcoholic beverages such as beer?
Boiling animal skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones yield gelatin, a protein. It is often present in beer, wine, shampoo, face masks, and cosmetics, and is used to purify them. A common ingredient in marshmallows and jelly candies is glucose.
To make beer crystal clear, gelatin is added to the fermenting process or straight to the beer keg during the brewing process.
Bovine gelatin has been used on an industrial scale for both beer and wine fining. The mechanism of clarification using bovine gelatin is that positively charged gelatin molecules attract the negatively charged yeast cells and colloids in beer, which are then removed by flocculation (2).
When and why is glycerin used in beer?
As a viscous polyalcohol with slight sweet taste, glycerol mainly contributes to the body for this fermented beverage. Additionally, it has been also reported to enhance the flavor intensity, suppress the perceived roughness, increase the worty off-flavor retention and influence on the aroma volatility. It serves critical roles in yeast osmoregulation and redox balancing and acts as the carbon competitor against ethanol in alcoholic fermentation. Therefore, glycerol yield benefits both the flavor and ethanol reduction for beer (3).
People don’t realize that Glycerin isn’t always vegan, making it a “hidden non-vegan component.” It’s advisable to avoid glycerin if you don’t know whether it’s derived from plant oil or animal fats since many ingredient labels don’t identify which type of the item is contained.
Tallow, or animal glycerin, is made from beef or mutton fat and is sometimes referred to as such.
What is casein, and how is it used in brewing?
There’s nothing vegan about casein, which is a milk product. When making beer or wine, it’s sometimes used in the finishing process. Casein is more commonly used in the wine industry as in beer making, as a fining agent (2).
Because many individuals have an allergy to casein, the ingredient will be prominently displayed on a beer bottle that includes this component.
The majority of brewers do not disclose which beers include animal ingredients, according to Wikipedia. Vegetarian and vegan-friendly breweries who have made this information public include:
· Black Isle Brewery
· Black Sheep Brewery
· Broken Compass Brewing Company
· Epic Brewing Company
· Little Valley Brewery
· Marble Brewery (Manchester, UK)
· Pitfield Brewery
· Samuel Smith
Detection apps for vegetarian beer
Numerous methods were discovered that may be highly useful in detecting if a beer (or other alcoholic drinks) is vegetarian or vegan friendly. The Barnivore website and Barnivore mobile apps are these tools.
Barnivore claims to be “your guide to vegan beer, wine, and liquor.” Over 45,000 beer, wine, and liquor items have been entered into a web-based database that contains information on both the ingredients and filtration processes employed. The Barnivore may be found here.
Apps for iOS
Barnivore’s data may be accessed via four iOS apps that are optimized for mobile use. Green Vegan ($1.99), Vegaholic ($0.99), VeganXpress (Free), and veggie beers (Free) are all available for purchase. It has the most downloads and is now ranked #55 in the “Food & Drink” category on the App Store. Vegaholic has an additional perk: all of its data can be accessed offline, even if you don’t have a mobile service. You may download Veggiebeers for free, making it the most popular of the four.
Apps for Android
Two Android apps use Barnivore’s data in a mobile-friendly way. There’s a vegetable ($1.49) and a VeggieBeers (Free). For Android, we pick VeggieBeers above the other two since it has a greater number of reviews, more downloads, and is completely free.
The Windows Phone
You can now drink vegan on your Windows phone thanks to the Drink Vegan app (Free). Drink Vegan leverages Barnivore’s database much like the other apps on this list.
Other FAQs about Beer that you may be interested in.
Can you survive on beer without water?
How many calories are in Not your father’s root beer?
In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is beer vegetarian?” and discussed vegetarian-friendly breweries.
- Barnett, Andrew, Georgiana Juravle, and Charles Spence. Assessing the impact of finings on the perception of beer. Beverages, 2017, 3, 26.
- Walker, Samantha L., M. Carmen Donet Camarena, and Gary Freeman. Alternatives to isinglass for beer clarification. J Inst Brew, 2007, 113, 347-354.
- Igoe, Robert S. Dictionary of food ingredients. Springer Science & Business Media, 2011.
- Zhao X, Procopio S, Becker T. Flavor impacts of glycerol in the processing of yeast fermented beverages: a review. J Food Sci Technol, 2015, 52, 7588-7598.
- Zadow, J. G. Whey and lactose processing. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.
- Quesada-Molina M, Muñoz-Garach A, Tinahones FJ, Moreno-Indias I. A New Perspective on the Health Benefits of Moderate Beer Consumption: Involvement of the Gut Microbiota. Metabolites. 2019, 9, 272.