When I found out that there were vegan-friendly beers on the market, I immediately thought, "What would make beer not vegan?"
My quest for the answer landed me on one of the best vegan-beverage-answer-seeking websites in my book, barnivore.com. Barnivore has an awesome search feature, and with the exception of a few truly obscure foreign brewing companies, you can determine the veg-friendiness of just about every beer imaginable.
So, what makes a beer not vegan? The obvious is if it contains honey, it's not vegan. The less obvious is in the filtering process and sometimes even the ingredient list.
According to Barnivore.com's beer page, "When making the product, dairy, honey, and other things (including, in one case, a whole chicken dropped in the tank) are ingredients in the final recipe [would make your beer not vegan]. When filtering the drinks prior to bottling, companies can use things like isinglass (from fish bladder,) gelatin, egg whites, and sea shells, among other things. These products grab onto the impurities and make it easier to catch them in the filters, though there are many animal-free alternatives in use."
In the spirit of Oompahfest right here on Long Island, the autumn evenings we have started to enjoy and the festive pumpkin and cider beers, this week's Vegan Living column took on the task of taste-testing a few vegan beers from Bellmore Beverage on Newbridge Road. The staff allows you to mix and match a six-pack as long as it is within the same brewer.
We spoke to the manager, Steve, about vegan requests.
"I've been asked just about everything, but have never been asked for vegan beer," he said.
Steve said that one of the most recent and popular requests is for gluten-free beverages, of which they have many in stock. "The breweries are clearly labeling packaging now to provide gluten-free alternatives. As much as I can share with my customers, I learn a lot from my customers."
Taste Testers: Two males, two females
Veg-Friendly Taste Test Lineup: Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest, Magic Hat Circus Boy, Magic Hat #9, Woodchuck Pumpkin Hard Cider, Woodchuck Amber Hard Cider and the Young's Double Chocolate Double Stout.
1. Ourtoberfest: Sweet, a tad soapy and overall a pretty off combination of flavors. Tasted a bit chaotic.
2. Circus Boy: Ultra light and a bit watery, Circus Boy was quoted as "the beer to go to if you don't like beer."
3. #9: Steadfast favorite of the Magic Hats. Overall, had great texture and taste and looks great in your glass. A bit fruity, it is refreshing and available year-round.
Woodchuck Hard Cider
4. Pumpkin: We didn't taste the pumpkin – poured and sat in the glass similar to "cough syrup". This was by far the least favorite of the bunch.
5. Amber: Sweet and lighter than the pumpkin cider, but was true to its roots. It's not a beer – it truly is spiked apple cider.
6. Young's Luxury Chocolate Double Stout: This one we poured into port glasses. The pour was reminiscent of a Guinness and the flavor was thick and chocolatey with a touch of espresso. Absolutely a beer for sipping, not gulping, the Chocolate Double Stout will fill you up very fast and has a creamy texture and bold chocolate after taste.
Winner: Our of four taste-testers, Magic Hat #9 topped the seasonal ciders and Oktoberfest brews and was donned the champion of this taste-test. While the playing field was a bit unfair, pitting a year-round contender against some of the more autumnal flavors, Magic Hat #9 is thankfully 100 percent vegan and refreshing.
However, our favorite surprise was the Double Chocolate Stout. A heavy, indulgent choice with satisfying chocolate flavors, we recommend trying it at least once!
Always enjoy your beverage of choice responsibly. And now, you can consciously enjoy it.