Beer is a staple beverage in the homes of many Americans. There is nothing quite like cracking open a cold one on a hot day. There are so many different companies that make all kinds of beer, whether it’s a brown or pale ale, IPA, lager, stout, porter, or wheat beer. Chances are if you don’t like one type, there’s one out there you will. What about the vegan population, though? You would think that all beer would be vegan-friendly, but this isn’t always the case. There are beers that are non-vegan for reasons other than the occasional addition of milk or honey.
As vegans, we are so used to reading labels and looking into the legitimacy of companies that allegedly make vegan products, but it gets tiring after a while. It would be nice if we could at least trust beer to be vegan, but it just doesn’t work that way. Not yet, anyway. Unfortunately, vegans have to be on guard with beer choices as well. Before you order your next drink at the bar, you may want to check online first because you could be ordering a non-vegan beer.
Why Isn’t Beer Vegan?
Just like sugar and soda (hyperlink vegan soda article), traditionally, beer is clarified with animal byproducts making it inherently non-vegan. The fining process is used to clarify beer and filter out things like suspended yeast, proteins from the malt, and polyphenols from beer. Traditional finings include gelatin and isinglass (the dried swim bladder of a fish). Beer companies don’t have to report this on the list of ingredients, though, because the finings fall out of the beer and don’t make it into the final product. That said, it is possible that trace amounts of animal byproducts find their way into the beer, which is these companies cannot claim to be vegan.
Traditional finings are quickly becoming the way of the past with the rise of Millennials’ demand for more vegan options in the market place. Millennials are careful about how they treat their bodies. Eating and drinking healthy and a satisfactory work-out regimen are high priorities for a lot of the people that fall into this generation. I myself am a millennial and can attest to this as well. It could be a result of Millennials’ outcry, but veganism, in general, is an increasingly trending topic. It’s even spilling over into the world of beer.
That’s right; vegan beer is actually becoming easier to find every day because more companies are switching to vegan options for fining agents. Some of these agents include:
- Irish moss seaweed
- Silica gel
Biofine is a solution made up of silicic acid in water. There are even bars dedicated to veganism and will only serve vegan beers. Places like this make the life of a vegan that much easier.
Of course, the beers that are brewed with milk or honey will always be non-vegan, no matter what fining agent is used in the clarifying process.
The good news is that the most popular brewing companies in America are all vegan! Whether they have been vegan for years like the brewing companies Anheuser-Busch and Miller Coors, or they have recently made the switch, I am happy to say the vegan beer options are plentiful.
Top 20 Most Popular Beers in America
People love craft beers, but when it comes to the most popular beers, the award goes to the larger brewing companies in the business. No matter how popular craft beers may seem, it’s doubtful that they will ever surpass some of the names on the list below. The big name companies have been a part of our culture in America for years. They are names people trust, and now, they are all vegan too.
I found this complete list of the most popular beers in America, and listed the top 20 here:
- Bud Light
- Coors Light
- Miller Lite
- Michelob Ultra
- Corona Extra
- Modelo Especial
- Natural Light
- Busch Light
- Heineken (mostly vegan: Heineken 0.0 and Woodpecker Cider aren’t vegan)
- Keystone Light
- Miller High Life
- Stella Artois
- Bud Ice
- Natural Ice
- Yuengling Lager
- Pabst Blue Ribbon
- Blue Moon (mostly vegan: here is the complete list)
- Dos Equis
You can now enjoy any of the above-stated beers without wondering if you are compromising your vegan morals. None of these beers wear the certified vegan emblem, but that doesn’t mean you have to worry.
Barnivore is an informative website with over 49,000 different beers. This website informs the reader which beers are vegan and which aren’t. It also informs the reader of when the brewing company associated with each beer became vegan.
I created the list below based on the information found on the Barnivore website. This list states the brewing companies of the above beers, and when they turned vegan:
- Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors make up for most of the most popular beers, and both companies have always been vegan.
- Pabst Brewing Company has also always been vegan.
- Grupo Modelo Beers, for the most part, have always been vegan. As of 2018, Modelo Especial Chelada no longer contains clam juice and is now vegan-friendly.
- Heineken International stated in November of 2019 that all of their beers except for Woodpecker, are suitable for vegans. However, in January of this year, it was noted that the Heineken 0.0 label states that it contains cholesterol, which is usually a sign of animal ingredients. The Heineken website contradicts this, though, and when Barnivore contacted them about it, the company didn’t respond.
- As of 2012, D.G. Yuengling & Son beers are vegan.
What About Guinness?
Guinness may not have made it into the top 20, but it is a known tradition to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a Guinness or two. In the past, vegans couldn’t participate in this tradition because the company was dubbed non-vegan. Guinness, along with most other British beers, use traditional finings to clarify their beer. However, in 2015, Guinness announced they were going vegan, and by 2017 they made true by this promise. Not all of their beers are vegan, but a lot of them are. You can find the complete list here.
The same can’t be said for other British beers, though, so proceed with caution when it comes to ordering a British beer.
The world is listening to our cries and is becoming more vegan-friendly all the time. A few years ago, vegans didn’t have nearly as many vegan beer options. Now, the most popular beer companies are proud to call themselves vegan. Probably because it just means more customers for them, but we’ll take it! You can walk up to the bar in confidence this St. Patrick’s Day or any day and order any of the above-stated beers, knowing without a doubt, they are vegan.