On the face of it, a newcomer to our world of malt ‘n’ hops beverages might expect all beers to be vegan. Why wouldn’t you? Fresh, wholesome pint, made with home-grown malt and with aroma and bitterness from beautiful hop bines being planted in increasingly large numbers around the world.
But then, how did that pint of cask beer get to be so clear? Unfortunately, the most popular method of clearing, or fining, beer is to use fish bladder. Yes, fish bladder. It’s used because it binds itself to yeast particles, dragging them to the bottom of a barrel and leaving the beer that’s poured clear.
You’d think in this day and age there would be alternatives — and there are. My friends at nearby Dynamite Valley Brewing Co, here in Cornwall, use a silicon-based liquid called Brausol P Special, from Germany, which produces a crystal clear beer.
BrewDog makes mostly vegan beer by using a centrifuge, spinning at 4,700 times a minute, to clear particles out of the way before the beer is packaged.
Many brewers will be like Alan Hinde at Coastal Brewery (where, to declare an interest, I do some marketing and curate a bottle beer shop) who bottles his beers as vegan, then racks off the rest into cask with traditional finings.
And then there are some brewers who don’t fine their beers at all. Which is fine with most modern beer drinkers (although it is viewed with suspicion in certain, let us say, more traditional drinking circles).
Of course, many brewers — even those whose range is mostly vegan — have one or two beers where the accreditation can’t be achieved because of flavour additives such as honey or lactose. But that still leaves an awful lot of beers — increasing greatly by the day — which are suitable for all to drink.
Cheers to that!