The Vegan Beer Guide: Understanding What Makes a Beer Vegan

Welcome to "The Vegan Beer Guide," where we unravel the hops, barley, and the little-known secrets that distinguish vegan beer from its non-vegan counterparts. We brew vegan-friendly lager here in the UK and have plenty of experience creating a variety of  lager styles which are both delicious and vegan. Whether you're a die-hard vegan, dipping your toes into a plant-based lifestyle, or simply curious about what goes into your pint, this guide will clear up any misconceptions.

What is Vegan Beer?

At its core, beer is a plant-based beverage made from water, grains, hops, and yeast. Surprisingly to many, not all beer is vegan. You might wonder, "How can a drink brewed from plants be non-vegan?" The answer lies in the fining process.

The Fining Process

Fining is a method used in beer production to clarify the final product. It involves adding substances that bind to unwanted particles, causing them to settle at the bottom of the tank and making the beer clear and bright.

Traditionally, many brewers use fining agents derived from animal products. Isinglass, a substance obtained from the swim bladders of fish, is particularly common. Other non-vegan fining agents include gelatin (derived from animal bones and connective tissues), casein (a milk protein), and albumin (egg whites).


The Vegan Alternative

The good news is, there are plenty of vegan-friendly alternatives. Many modern brewers are now opting for plant-based or synthetic fining agents. Irish moss (a type of seaweed) and bentonite clay are popular natural options, effectively clarifying beer without using animal products.

Here at Pillars Brewery, we don’t use any finings, instead we cold-condition our beer for a minimum of four weeks which allows enough time for the sediment to drop to the bottom, and then we filter the lager to ensure optimum clarity. 

How to Identify Vegan Beer

Identifying vegan beer can be a bit of a challenge, as labelling standards vary and not all breweries disclose their fining agents. Here are some tips:

  • Check the Label: Many vegan beers are labelled as such. Look for terms like "vegan-friendly" or "suitable for vegans."
  • Research Online: Websites like Barnivore.com offer extensive databases on vegan alcoholic beverages, including beer.
  • Ask the Brewery: If in doubt, contact the brewery directly. Most are happy to provide information about their brewing processes.


The Rise of Vegan Beer

There's been a significant shift towards vegan-friendly brewing in the UK in recent years. This change is driven not only by the growing vegan movement but also by the pursuit of more sustainable and environmentally friendly brewing practices. A common misconception is that vegan beer compromises on taste or quality. This couldn't be further from the truth. The fining agents, whether vegan or not, are removed from the final product, meaning that the taste remains unaffected. In fact, many award-winning beers are vegan- including our lagers! Check out our refreshing range of vegan lagers online now or on draught in venues across London.