When you become vegan, most of your energy is spent finding out what foods you can and can’t eat these days. One area people commonly overlook though is how the alcohol they drink might not be as vegan friendly as they realize.
Is alcohol vegan? Yes, at its core, alcohol is vegan friendly, but many of the popular manufacturers use animal products in their processing methods which would make them not so.
If you’re vegan, you should check all labeling and only shop from brands that are committed to making alcohol products without any animal components.
Rather than making you give up the beers altogether, we’ve created this simple guide to vegan alcohol that will answer all of your questions.
When you’re done, you’ll be able to source vegan-friendly drinks and determine whether these beverages fit with your values, so read on to find out more.
Is Alcohol Vegan?
The vegan way of life is centered on making food choices that don’t harm animals in any way, and it’s easy to forget that some of our favorite drinks might fall into this category as well.
When it comes to alcohol, not every beverage could be considered vegan friendly, but there are some brands out there trying to change that.
Although you might not assume that a simple beer or a glass of wine features animal products in any way, you would be wrong.
A quick look at the ingredient list can show a range of products that were used during processing and bottling that would indicate that many alcoholic beverages like wine and beer aren’t suitable for vegans.
However, most of the spirits you find on the shelf would be okay for a vegan to enjoy. Rum, bourbon, gin, vodka, and tequila are usually made without animal products unless you’ve chosen a traditional tequila that features a dead worm in the bottle.
Before diving in and picking up a bottle though, it’s worth doing a little research.
What Does Alcohol Contain?
Just as you should learn the common non-vegan ingredients in the foods you find at the supermarket, you’ll also need to understand the common components of alcohol that make them non-vegan.
These are the usual contents of alcohol that you should be wary of when buying beverages:
Gelatin: Common in sweet foods like gummy bears and Jell-O, gelatin is also used as a fining agent which helps to filter the alcohol. Gelatin is made with various animal parts including bones, tissue, and skin.
Milk products: These can include milk and cream, plus other words use for them including whey, lactose, and casein. They might be used as a fining agent or as part of the ingredients within the bottle, usually with creamy liquors and pre-made cocktails.
Eggs: Another fining agent that helps filter alcohol is eggs, and specifically it is the egg white protein called ‘albumin’ that does this. It’s commonly used in wine and might also be an active ingredient in some cocktails.
Isinglass: Isinglass is made of dried fish bladders and is one of the most popular fining agents used in the alcohol industry. Most wines that aren’t vegan friendly will use this ingredient in their processing.
Chitin: This byproduct is made with parts of fish and insects, and it’s a fiber that’s also used as a fining agent.
Carmine: This red dye is found in beverages and foods, and it’s made from an insect called cochineal which is crushed for its coloring.
Honey: Some alcoholic beverages get their sweetness from honey, which is non-vegan, and it can be fermented to create the alcoholic beverage mead.
Does Alcohol Fit Into an Organic Lifestyle?
While it’s great to look for alcohol brands that are committed to not using animal products, we also have to think about our own health when deciding whether or not to drink.
This can be an area that vegans sometimes overlook in their quest to do better for the planet while forgetting about their needs as well.
It’s a well-known fact that alcohol is responsible for a number of diseases and illnesses, a factor in many forms of violence and abuse, and something that people can easily become addicted to, ruining their lives in the process.
Although not everyone will drink irresponsibly, it’s worth weighing up when assessing whether you want to consume alcohol or not.
If you’re someone who follows an organic way of life strictly, alcohol probably won’t feature heavily in it, as your focus is on good health.
However, some alcohol manufacturers create organic drinks, which are made without the use of synthetic chemicals like those used to speed up the brewing process or fertilizers to grow the ingredients, if this is more your preference.
Tips for Choosing Vegan Alcohol
After learning how to navigate the supermarket aisles and find vegan foods, your next task is tackling the liquor store.
If you want to know how to be sure the beverages you’re buying are compatible with your vegan way of life, we’ve got some tips that will help.
Avoid cream-based drinks: This goes for any liquors on the shelf or cocktails that you get made up fresh at the bar, so anything that has a creamy texture should be avoided. These are almost always made with cream and milk, so be mindful about what you’re drinking and not just the foods you eat when you’re trying to be vegan.
Pick translucent liquor: If you don’t have time to check all of the labels or you’re out at the bar, choosing any liquid that’s translucent and doesn’t appear to contain honey as a sweetener will be okay. This includes vodka, gin, bourbon, rum, and all of the usual favorites, as long as you mix with them a vegan-friendly mixer as well.
Don’t trust the ingredients list: Alcohol companies aren’t tied to the same regulations as food manufacturers which means they don’t have to list any of the ingredients on the bottle. This makes it hard to determine which ones actually have animal products in them or were processed with the help of them. Sometimes, you may see that a drink contains egg or shellfish as these are common allergens, but not always.
Plan ahead: Do your research ahead of time and learn some of the brands that you can trust to be vegan friendly so you don’t have to second guess while you’re out. If you’re going to a friend’s house, bring along beers or wine that you know is okay rather than having to drink whatever they have on hand. If you do happen to drink something that’s not entirely vegan-friendly, don’t beat yourself up about it and just try to plan for next time.
Look for these popular brands: Top-selling brands that make vegan beers include Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Yuengling. For wine, you can look for Frey Vineyards, Red Truck Wines, and The Vegan Vine. More brands are moving towards vegan methods for their alcohol product so there will be more to add to the list all the time.
A Better Way to Drink
There’s no need to give up the occasional glass of wine or cold beer if you don’t want to, with plenty of vegan options available.
Being prepared is the best way you can ensure you’re only drinking vegan-friendly beverages, so do your homework and learn how to sip responsibly for the planet.
When someone goes vegan, they usually forget about the beverages in their life that might also have to be adjusted.
If you want to learn more about the drinks you can enjoy now that you’re plant-based, read on for a few commonly asked questions that can clear it up.
Is Soda Vegan?
Most of the popular soda brands like Pepsi and Coca-Cola create vegan-friendly drinks, as it explicitly states so on their websites.
However, some brands may use ingredients like white sugar that’s been processed with animal bones, making them not as vegan suitable as you might realize.
What’s in a Vegan Milkshake?
A vegan milkshake can look and taste just like a dairy-based one thanks to products like creamy nut milk and non-dairy ice cream.
By blending these ingredients and adding a Hershey’s chocolate syrup or another vegan-friendly brand of syrup flavoring, you can create a milkshake without having to use any animal products.
Is Guinness Beer Vegan?
Unfortunately for Guinness lovers, the beer is not vegan as it uses isinglass as a filtration method during brewing.
Isinglass is made with the dried swim bladders of fish and is a common material used in alcohol production, so any drinks that are made with it would be classified as non-vegan.
Lorraine Pinnix is a passionate nutritionist and loves seeing people living healthy, and fulfilled lives. She believes that food is an essential piece of staying fit and strongly believes in going vegan. PureGrowthOrganic is a passionate work that details her research in helping you go on complete organic diets. She is available for questions, comments, and follow-ups.