Well, the short answer is yes, they have the capacity to drink beer, and yes, they do drink beer, but I guess the real question is:
Is beer vegan?
And more generally…
Does my liquor have animal in it?
It may be somewhat painful for the vegan beer-drinking enthusiast to ask the question, but most vegans are in essence truth-seekers, and as such we like to know what exactly is impacted by the choices we make, particularly the food and drink choices. For example, some vegans do not eat cane sugar (of your standard white variety), since it may have been processed with charcoal made from animal bones (a.k.a. “bone char”). It would be logical to assume then that these vegans would also not be ok with drinking beer that contains dairy or honey, or is filtered using fish or eggs. Here are two examples of animal-derived products that are used to filter beers:
- Isinglass is a common additive to beer used for filtering the yeast from certain beer so that it doesn’t look cloudy. It is made from fish bladders.
- Glycerol monostearate (animal-derived) may be used by brewers to form foam (“head”) on a beer after being poured.
The good news is, there are veg alternatives to using many of the animal-unfriendly filtering methods, and there is a wide selection of beers that do not add honey or dairy or use animal products in their filtering methods. Not surprisingly however, finding out whether your beer has beast is not straightforward. Most companies do not advertise the animal or animal-derived products on their ingredients label and even if a beer is vegetarian, it is rare that it is touted as such. So avoiding animal products at bars and pubs becomes even more tricky. Thankfully, there are websites dedicated to helping you determine if your drink is truly vegan (e.g., Barnivore). If this concerns you, you may want to consider learning a sublist of vegan beers before a night out on the town with friends. It is highly not recommended to ask your bartender or server if the beer on tap is vegetarian. You will get blank stares from the staff and perhaps some mocking remark from a companion. (We haven’t gotten to that level of understanding just yet!)
In anticipation of our very exciting pub night coming up this Thursday, March 24 from 6:30pm-9:30pm at the Lieutenant’s Pump (361 Elgin St.)–dont you dare miss it–I have provided a selection below of beers offered at the Pump that are claimed to be vegan and others that clearly are not. This way, we will all feel comfortable on Thursday (and any future day) to drink, be merry, and most importantly, be veg!
- Mill St. Organic
- Alexander Keith’s
- Coors Light
- St. Ambroise
- Molson Canadian
- Labatt Blue
- Carlsberg (Canada)
- Stella Artois
- Steam Whistle
I think if you get a domestic beer, you’re probably safe. It’s the imported beers (especially from Britain) that tend to be iffy.
Similar to the beer-making process, wine is clarified sometimes using animal products (like isinglass, gelatin, or egg albumen). Likewise, some liquors may have animal ingredients in them or be produced by using animal products for processing or filtration. Thankfully for liquor, it seems to be less common (e.g., compared to wine or beer).