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One Small Change

Is That Drink Vegan?


When I decided to turn vegan for a month, I drew some encouragement from the fact that at least I wouldn’t have to give up beer—or any alcohol for that matter. Although the Clydesdales may be fundamental to Budweiser’s success, it seemed safe to assume they weren’t part of the brewing process. Indeed, it was reassuring to know that if I ever grew tired of flaxseed and almond milk (I know, I know, that seems improbable), or if I got beat up by a gang of testosterone-crazed meat-eaters at the gym, I’d still be able to find solace in the can.

But then I spoke with Robert Dos Remedios, a former Collegiate Strength Coach of the Year, a vegan for two decades, and a beer drinker. You’ll meet him in a future blog and read about his unique training and eating philosophy. But suffice it to say for now that he put my newly taken vow of compassion to the test by pointing out that not all booze is vegan blessed.

That’s right, it’s not just brain cells that are killed by the consumption of alcohol. Animal-, fish- and insect-derived products are sometimes used in the manufacturing of beer, wine and hard liquor. While it’s obvious that cream liquors, milk stouts and honey ales aren’t vegan, there are others that you’d never suspect. That’s because some brewers, wine-makers and distillers use isinglass (fish bladders), gelatins (collagen from bones and hooves), milk proteins, egg whites, and animal albumin to clarify their products after fermentation. Since these are not technically ingredients, they don’t have to be listed on labels.

But vegans are a pesky lot, and they’ve managed to ferret things out. The website Barnivore.com offers an extensive listing of vegan booze, plus three free iPhone apps. Download “Is Your Beer Vegan?”, “Is Your Wine Vegan?” or “Is Your Liquor Vegan?, and you’ll never be left wondering again.

As a general rule, German and Belgian beer is vegan-friendly because strict purity laws in these countries prohibit the use of stuff like isinglass and gelatin. (So we’re clear for Octoberfest! Oompah!) The big American brands (Bud, Coors, Miller) are also okay. But be wary of UK brews because the typical British bitter uses them. Other notable beers that are not vegan include Guinness, Fosters and Sol.

Unfortunately, no such regional or style generalizations can be made for wine. Whether any animal products are used in the filtering process is purely a winery-by-winery preference. (By the way, some full-throttle vegans argue that no wine is acceptable because bugs inevitably get caught up and killed in the harvesting process.) Most hard liquor is fine except Beefeater Gin, E&J Brandy, Martini and Rossi Vermouth, and Silent Sam Vodka, among the more popular brands.

If you have a favorite drink and want to be sure it’s vegan, just contact the manufacturer. If it's the dietary preferences of those Coors Light girls you're wondering about, just work up the courage and ask ’em.

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Food, Beverages, Health