Is Alcohol Vegan?

My Favorite Wine Of All Time – Yum!

I recently turned 21, and I have been enjoying going out to fancy bars and trying unique cocktails. However, I realized I have no idea what is actually in these drinks. I have heard that some beers and wines aren’t vegan, but how is the general population supposed to know what is in their drinks when the manufacturer is not required to list ingredients on the label? As someone who works in the food industry, this concept baffles me – consumers deserve to know what they are putting in their body.


When I first went vegan, I was so hyper focused on checking ingredient labels on food products. I would check for honey, “natural” flavors, gelatin, beeswax, etc. as if it were my day job. However, I never had a second thought about alcohol due to the lack of labeling. It’s time I shed some light on the subject so consumers aren’t left in the dark. Grab your favorite beer, wine, or cocktail and let’s dive in!

Common Non-Vegan Additives

This Drink was $16 Dollars….. Yikes!
  • Dairy Ingredients. Obviously drinks like Irish Cream and cream stouts contain dairy, but did you know many wines have dairy byproducts as well? Casein, a protein found in milk products, often sneaks it’s way into alcoholic beverages. For wine, casein is used in the fining process. It is removed, usually, but there may still be remnants of dairy in your favorite glass of wine.
  • Honey. Fermented honey water, also known as mead, is an alcoholic drink gaining popularity in recent years,but it has been around forever. Often referred to as honey wine, mead can be made in a variety of ways (mixed with maple syrup, combined with berries, etc.) Mead (or just honey in general) is often mixed into cocktails for added sweetness, so it’s something to be aware of if you’re trying to avoid honey.
  • Eggs. Although it sounds kind of gross, egg whites are a common additive to fancy cocktails to get that added foam on the top. Often found on top of whiskey sours, gin fizzes, etc., egg whites add a richness to alcohol, making it a popular additive. If you’re looking to replicate one of these cocktails at home in a plant-based fashion, use aquafaba in place of the egg whites.
  • Gelatin. The concept of gelatin in any form makes my skin crawl, but drinking it just sounds disgusting. In the most obvious form, gelatin can be found in jello shots. In a more sneaky form, gelatin can be used as a fining and/or clarifying agent in many beers and wines.

How Alcohol is Made

I guess I enjoy drinks with dried orange slices!

Wine. Starting with the grape harvest, grapes are then transferred into a machine to remove the stems and prep them to be smashed. It differs for each type of wine, but for white wine, the entire grapes are crushed in a press, skin and all. The grapes will then get put into large tanks with yeast (to convert the sugars into ethanol.) This is also the phase when sweeteners and preservatives can be added. Once fermented, the wine must mature (time varies for different wines.) Once matured, the fining process begins. This process seeks to remove unwanted particles in the wine, and this is where the wine often takes a non-vegan turn. With the use of milk, casein, egg whites, gelatin, and even fish guts (ew), the wine begins the finning process and removes cloudiness from the wine. A lot of the time, as I mentioned above, these additives get filtered out. However, if you have allergies to any of the added fining ingredients, you have to do your research ahead of time due to the trace amounts left behind.

Beer. After grains have been harvested, they get put through a gristmill to crack the kernels. These kernels then get transported into a mash tun and mixed with super hot water. This liquid, also known as wort, then gets brought up to a boil. Hops are added at different intervals in this stage to achieve different smells, levels of bitterness, and flavors. Once boiled and all of the ingredients are added, the mixture then gets fermented in tanks and yeast gets added to convert the sugars into alcohol. After the fermentation is done, the beer gets filtered to remove any particles left behind. And, similar to wine, this is where beer can take a non-vegan turn. A lot of filters contain gelatin or isinglass, which is dried fish bladders (again, ew.) Once filtered, the beer is ready to drink!

Spirits. Spirits begin their journey as agricultural products, such as grains, agave, etc. For anything with sugar (agave, cane, fruit), the process starts by converting the starch into fermentable material, often done by cooking with hot water and a mix of enzymes. For wheat and grains, the process of creating wort is the first step. Just like wine and beer, the juice (or wort) needs to be fermented with yeast. Unique to spirit production, distilling is the next step. This process heats the liquid to a boil, captures the vapors, and then condenses it back into liquid (cool, huh?) The vapor is the key to creating the proper alcohol content. Next, most spirits are transferred to oak barrels, or mental tanks, and set to age. Once ready, the alcohol concentrate is often combined with water, filtered, and ready to bottle. Unlike wine and beer, most of the filtering used in spirit production are vegan. Woo hoo!


Vegan Alcohol List

Fun Fact: This was the drink I had to celebrate my 21st birthday!

Although a lot of the processes I mentioned above are not vegan-friendly, there are alcohol companies who strive to make their processes vegan. Below is a list of brands that do not harm animals in the making.


Beer

I am not a beer girl, so I will admit that I am not the most educated on this subject. Here are some popular beer brands I was able to confirm are vegan. Check out this huge list of vegan beers from PETA for more!

  • Coors
  • Coors light
  • Miller Lite
  • Bud Light
  • Bush
  • Bush Light
  • Michelob
  • Natural Light
  • Miller High Life
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  • Kona Castaway IPA
  • Brooklyn East India Pale Ale
  • Coney Island Overpass IPA
  • Lagunitas IPA

Wine

Now wine, on the other hand, is something I am very passionate about. Here is a list of delicious vegan wines on the market.

  • Kris Pinot Grigio
  • Decoy Wines
  • Les Jamelles Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay
  • Newman’s Own Chardonnay
  • Layer Cake
  • Our Daily Chard
  • Fat Cat Cellars
  • Seven Daughters Moscato
  • Rose all Day
  • Natura Rose
  • Piper Sonoma

Spirits

Not a huge fan of hard liquor, but I have definitely taken some shots back in my college days. Here is a list of commonly found vegan spirits.

  • 1800 Tequila
  • 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey
  • 2bar SPirits Vodka
  • Absolut Vodka
  • Amaretto
  • Aperol
  • Aviation Gin
  • Don Julio
  • Patron
  • Tanqueray

Now you can be equipped with knowledge when it comes to ordering vegan drinks at the bar. With all of that being said, drink responsibly!

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