Vegan beers give the old phrase “Drink Responsibly” new meaning.
Now when you drink responsibly and don’t get intoxicated, you can also have a clear conscience that the brewer neither killed nor hurt animals in the brewing.
You may not have known it before now, but there are big brand vegan beers on the market, just like there are vegan wines! Consumers nowadays prefer to “live consciously” and care genuinely about where they spend their money.
So what makes a beer vegan, you may ask?
We’ve taken the time to look into this niche market, and also to discover the best vegan beers. We explore their tastes, calories per serving, alcohol content, and the all-important bitterness factor too.
What Makes A Beer Vegan?
Beer consists of malt, hops, yeast, and water, so we forgive you for immediately thinking, “Well, isn’t all beer vegan?”
However, the traditional manufacturing process involves fining beer during its later stages of production, and this process uses animal-sourced fining agents. An example is isinglass sourced from fish swim bladders.
These fining agents are used to make beer crystal clear and more appealing by removing the suspended yeast residues, polyphenols, and malt proteins before packaging.
A vegan-friendly beer does not contain animal products in any part of the manufacturing process. The fining process of a vegan beer uses plant-sourced charcoal, leaf gelatin, Irish moss seaweed, and Biofine as fining agents, and white sugar as flavor agents.
The most widely used animal fining agents in making traditional beer include:
- Gelatin – used as a clarifier and derived from animal skin, connective tissue, and bones
- Pepsin – derived from pork and used to control foam
- Casein — a protein found in cow milk used as a clarifier
- Animal bone charcoal – used during the filtration process
- Crushed insects – to add color to the beer
- Glyceryl monostearate – an animal-sourced chemical used to control beer foam
No law requires beer manufacturers to disclose non-vegan ingredients on the label, which can confuse vegan beer drinkers.
Some animal products like honey and milk are usually prominently displayed on the label. It is the animal products used in minute proportions that don’t make it to the labels that you need to be wary of.
Nowadays, some brewers keep their beers cloudy to reassure consumers of the beer’s vegan credentials. They state that a small amount of yeast in the beer heightens the flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel of the beer, allowing you to enjoy the beer as initially intended.
The Top 7 Vegan Beers You Should Be Buying Right Now
Budweiser is the most well-known beer manufacturer in the world. Coming from a long tradition of German beer-making, this vegan beer from Anheuser-Busch doesn’t contain animal ingredients.Budweiser is a medium-bodied and crisp American-style lager brewed with barley and a blend of premium hop varieties. It is one of the most well-known American beers encompassing the celebration of the American free spirit. Enjoy Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Light Lime-a-Rita, and Bud Dry for a stellar vegan beer experience. Anheuser-Busch’s beers not considered vegan-friendly are Budweiser Clamato Chelada and Bud Light Clamato Chelada.(“ABV” stands for alcohol by volume. “IBU” stands for international bitterness units.)
ABV 5% IBU 0 Estimated Calories 150
Grolsch Premium Pilsner
Dutch brewery Grolsch has been making beer for more than 500 years.Grolsch’s pale hue and sweet-bitter flavor stand out. The color and flavor can either be a hit or a miss with beer lovers. Grolsch Premium Pilsner is also not too heavy on the alcohol.This beer has popularized Dutch brewing all over the world. It practically screams Europe, complete with its quirky green bottle and original flip-top lid. Grolsch’s beer not considered vegan-friendly is Grolsch Milk Stout.
ABV 5% IBU 0 Estimated Calories 150
In the U.S. and Canada, this light-calorie beer is vegan, but unfortunately not so in the United Kingdom. Coors Light is not too high on the alcohol scale and has a non-bitter taste. Naturally, it lives up to its name by not being too high on the calorie scale also.Coors Light has soft bread and biscuit malt flavors with gentle floral hop hints. It is quite bubbly and not as watery as expected, with a light, refreshing texture – perfect enjoyed cold on a hot summer’s day.
ABV 4.2% IBU 0 Estimated Calories 126
This beer is one of the most famous vegan beers, and also one of the most well-liked. All other pilsners try to reach this beer’s original taste and mouthfeel.Made in the United Kingdom with a unique recipe that has remained unchanged since 1842, Pilsner Urquell is delightfully flavorsome and a real pleasure to drink.It is earthy with hints of honeysuckle and a yeasty, bready taste that makes it quite irresistible.
ABV 4.4% IBU 35 Estimated Calories 132
Who hasn’t heard of Stella Artois? Their TV campaigns are mesmerizing, and so is the beer. People enjoy it in more than 80 countries. Stella Artois has a full flavor with a mildly bitter taste.Stella Artois has a high-quality brewing process that results in a clear, pale beer. The United Kingdom beer version is manufactured at Samlesbury and then bottled or canned at Magor.Enjoy Stella Artois Pear Cidre, which is vegan-friendly, but stay clear of Stella Artois Apple Cidre, which is not.
ABV 5.2% IBU 0 Estimated Calories 156
Ninkasi Total Domination IPA is a flavorful, balanced beer with a floral, almost citrusy nose and bold hop flavor. Its richness mostly derives from Carahell and Munich malts.This beer maintains its drinkability, and as such, has garnered rave reviews from seasoned and novice beer drinkers in equal measure. The alcohol and calorie content are slightly high, but that’s more than made up for in the flavor.Craft-brewed by founder Jamie Floyd of the Ninkasi Brewing Company in the U.S., this beer receives rave reviews from beer drinkers. Many drinkers rave about its pure golden color, large foam head, and grapefruit flavor.All of Ninkasi’s beers are vegan, except Ninkasi Noir, which contains milk fat.
Ninkasi ABV 6.7% IBU 0 Estimated Calories 201
Sapporo Premium Beer is Japan’s flagship beer brand and the bestselling Asian beer in the United States. All of Sapporo’s beers are vegan-friendly, and the company has made it a point to eliminate animal ingredients in its entire beer-brewing process.The founder Seibei Nakagawa trained with German brewmasters and founded the company in 1876. This beer made its American debut in 1964, popularizing the light, clear, gold color beer-style, complete with a large frothy head. Crisp, clean, and simple-flavored – just like the Japanese culture itself.
Sapporo Premium Beer
ABV 4.9% IBU 0 Estimated Calories 147
If you haven’t tried vegan beers before, these top brands will get you started. Vegan beer contains no animal products in its fining, clarifying, or flavor agents – I mean, who wants to drink fish guts?
Nevertheless, vegan beer is still a niche market. However, as beer manufacturers like Guinness and Sapporo go vegan, we get a glimpse into what’s ahead in the exciting world of beer.