Is the everyday beer a threat to vegetarians? Rachel Walker gives the low down on why meat-free beers are becoming popular with more and more vegetarians.

A Meat free lifestyle

Did you know that some strict vegetarians will refuse certain beers because they contain isinglass, which comes from a sturgeon fish’s swim bladder? Once dried and pressed, isinglass is often added to cask ales, where it helps settle and clarify the sediment to create a nice, bright beer.

The Food Standard Agency lists isinglass as an exempt ingredient, so it doesn’t need to be listed on labels. This can make things a bit of a minefield, but websites like vegsocapproved and barnivore have a database of vegan and veggie beers, and lots of companies, such as Guinness, are very open about their beers containing isinglass. There are also lots of vegetarian-friendly beers making their voices heard.

The Black Sheep Brewery, Black Isle Brewery Co and The Marble Brewery are all safe bets. They do a good line in pale ales, blondes or pilsners, which are all good accompaniments to a daal or curry. Indian-style lagers, Kingfisher and Cobra, are also classic choices—and are vegan-friendly too.

 

Something to brew over...

Fishy facts about beer

  • English brewers started adding isinglass to beer in the 16th century, when Dutch traders brought it over from Russia. It’s thought that the discovery was first made when medieval brewers used dried bladders as a vessel, and noticed that the beer was much clearer and brighter when poured from a sturgeon’s bladder above anything else.

  • Isinglass finings work by attracting the fine yeast particles floating in the beer, until they are so heavy they sink to the bottom—clarifying the beer

 

Rachel is a food writer and blogs at thefoodieat

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