It has been four years since I last wrote about vegan beer and things have changed, so I’ve decided to revisit the subject.
I will answer some of the questions you might have, like “how on earth can a beer not be vegan?” and “how is vegan beer made?”
After that, I’ll put together a short list of some of the better vegan beers available in the UK at the moment.
Finally, I have a list of UK breweries making exclusively vegan beers.
But first the good news: 2021 is a great time to be a vegan beer drinker. There’s a huge variety of beers available to you and the number is growing all the time, as isinglass (the main reason some beers are not vegan) is falling out of fashion among brewers.
Quick answers on vegan beer
Google suggests people want to know the following…
Can vegans drink beer?
Yes, there are lots of beers that are suitable for vegans to enjoy.
Is vegan beer alcoholic?
Yes, vegan beer is usually alcoholic. But it doesn’t have to be. The vegan bit and the alcoholic bit are not linked.
Is vegan beer gluten free?
No, vegan beer is not normally gluten free. But it can be. The vegan bit and the gluten free bit are not linked.
Is vegan beer good for you?
I mean… no? Vegan beer is not ‘better for you’ than regular beer. But it’s not necessarily bad for you either if you drink in moderation. It’s no different to any other beer in that respect.
Right, that’s the quick stuff dealt with. Now on to the bigger questions…
How is beer not vegan?
First let’s be clear: beer’s ingredients are vegan. They are malted grain (usually barley), hops, yeast and water. The basic ingredients do not contain any animal products.
(In case you’re not sure, yeast is a fungus and therefore yes, yeast is suitable for vegans.)
These basic ingredients are the same for all beers, no matter what colour or strength they are.
So if there are no animal products in the basic ingredients, how come some beers are not vegan?
That’s a very reasonable question.
There are three main ways in which a beer might not be vegan. They boil down to the use of animal products as adjuncts (i.e. extra ingredients) or as filtering agents.
Some breweries use isinglass, a collagen derived from fish, to filter their beers. I won’t go into detail here as I covered this when I last wrote about vegan beer. You can read more there if you want.
Some brewers add lactose to their beers to add extra body or sweetness. Lactose is an unfermentable sugar that comes from milk.
This has become more popular in recent years with the growing interest in styles such as milk stouts and milkshake IPAs.
Brewers who use lactose in their beers are required to list it on the label under UK law because it is a potential allergen.
Some brewers use honey to flavour their beer. It isn’t all that common, and isn’t really tied to any particular beer style, but beers made in this way tend to be pale rather than dark in order to allow the honey flavour to come through more noticeably.
These are the most common reasons for a beer not to be vegan, but there are a few others too. These ones will come up much less frequently.
Some oyster stouts do indeed use oysters in the brewing process.
Some beers are brewed with ham or bacon but it’s very unusual. There are also smoked beers with bacon-like flavours that contain no meat at all. (In which case the flavours come from the smoked malt.)
How is vegan beer made?
The simple answer is it’s made the same way as all beer.
None of things that can make a beer unfit for vegans are core parts of the brewing process, so it’s extremely simple to leave them out.
It’s easy to avoid using isinglass. You can drink unfiltered beers. Many people even prefer them. Look for the terms unfined or unfiltered on the label.
If you still want a crystal clear beer, that’s OK too. Brewers can filter it using alternative methods that are vegan friendly.
Adding ingredients like lactose and honey are a choice brewers sometimes make, but the neither is required to make beer. The vast majority of beers do not contain any lactose or honey at all.
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Vegan beer list
Here is my round up of some of the best vegan beers in the UK available at the moment.
I’m not attempting an exhaustive list. At this point there are just too many. Instead this is a selection of a few good examples covering a reasonably wide list of beer styles.
- Utopian, Ten Degrees Czechia 10° Session Lager
- Lucky Saint (alcohol-free)
- Deya, Steady Rolling Man
- Track, Sonoma
- Five Points Brewing Co, Best Bitter (but only in bottles; more info here)
- Thornbridge, Jaipur (just the DDH version; standard Jaipur is not vegan)
- Polly’s Brew Co, Kyra
- Brick Brewery, Berry Sour (or any in their rotating range of kettle sours)
- Pastore, Budino Estivo
- Brew York, Tonkoatko Vegan Vanilla Milk Stout
- Donzoko, Black Mass Vegan Coffee & Vanilla Stout
There will be lots of other options besides the ones I’ve listed here. If you want to recommend some, leave a comment and let me know.
Vegan friendly breweries in the UK
All of the beer made by these breweries is vegan.
I’ve emphasised a few I think are particularly worth checking out.
- Amity Brew Co
- Anspach & Hobday
- Bad Seed Brewery
- Battle Brewery
- Beatnikz Republic Brewing Co
- Beer Brothers Brewery
- Beer Nouveau
- Beerblefish Brewing Co
- Bellfield Brewery
- Better World Brewing
- Bexley Brewery
- Black Isle Brewery
- Blackjack Brewing Co
- Bone Machine Brew Co
- Brass Castle Brewery
- Braybrooke Beer Co
- Brick Brewery
- Bullhouse Brew Co
- Camden Town Brewery
- Clarkshaws Brewery
- Cloudwater Brew Co
- Donzoko Brewing
- Eko Brewery
- Fierce Beer Co
- First Chop
- Fourpure (apart from some special releases)
- Franklins Brewing Co
- Freedom Brewery
- Good Karma Beer Co
- Gweilo Beer
- Hackney Brewery
- Heavy Water Brewing
- Horsforth Brewery
- Howling Hops
- London Beer Lab (apart from some special releases)
- Lost & Grounded
- Magic Rock Brewing (core range)
- Mashionistas Brewing Co
- McColl’s Brewery
- Meantime Brewing Co
- Mill Valley Brewery
- Moncada Brewery
- Moor Beer Co
- Neptune Brewery
- Nirvana Brewery
- Nomadic Beers (all core beers are vegan, specials are veggie)
- Northdown Brewery
- Pig And Porter (despite the name!)
- Pomona Island
- Really Good Beer Society
- Redchurch Brewery
- Simple Things Fermentations
- Six°North Brewery (except Brevet Heather Honey Saison)
- Spitting Feathers (apart from one seasonal honey beer)
- Squawk Brewing Co
- Steam Machine Brewing Co
- Thames Side Brewery
- The Cheshire Brewhouse
- The Crafty Brewing Co (except cask beers)
- The Goodness Brewing Co
- The Kernel Brewery
- The Runaway Brewery (apart from some special releases)
- Thirst Class Ale
- Toast Ale
- Top Rope Brewing
- Torrside Brewing
- Twisted Barrel Ale
- Two Tribes
- Unity Brewing Co
- Utopian Brewing
- Vocation Brewery
- Westerham Brewery
- Wild Barn Beer (except seasonal stouts)
- Wilderness Brewery
- Windswept Brewing
- Wishbone Brewery (except some cask beers)
- Yeastie Boys
- Yonder Brewing & Blending
Again this isn’t an exhaustive list.
More and more UK breweries are discontinuing the use of isinglass, so there are probably lots more breweries making all vegan beer.
If you know of any breweries that should be added to the list, let me know in the comments.