Luckily, there is a good range of suitable bottled craft beers available for new converts as well as the already committed. They are in the minority on our supermarket shelves, but on a worldwide basis of different beer types the list runs into hundreds.
WHEN IS IT VEGAN?
What makes a beer not vegan is the use of Isinglass finings made from fish and added at the end of the process to make the beer settle bright and clear before bottling. For vegans there are vegetable-based replacements for Isinglass made, for example, from seaweeds or moss. Without the finings, beer will settle to a light haze. This is perfectly natural and does not affect the taste.
But in the 19th century, when pale ales challenged dark porters and stouts in the popularity stakes and transparent glasses replaced pottery or pewter drinking vessels, people began to drink with their eyes as well as palate. Isinglass was introduced to deliver the clear and bright pints we are familiar with today.
Considering how important this is to some consumers, the relevant information is usually not prominently displayed but consigned to the back label already crowded with mainly statutory information.
Now there is a gradual trend away from Isinglass. Guinness, for one, announced it had ended its use for their famous dark stout back in 2015, but it is not referred as ‘vegan friendly’ on their cans. So once again the advice to consumers is to take time to check the label.
Here are a couple of vegan-friendly beers and a lager I found recently during a post festive season restocking trip to my local supermarket. Suitability for vegans and veggies does not affect these carefully crafted, flavoursome beers and they are there to be enjoyed by all.
Hepworth Pullman First Class Ale, named after the grand Pullman trains of years gone by, is brewed traditionally from Sussex hops and barley and is a delightfully crisp ale declared as “naturally gluten free and suitable for vegans”, 4.2 per cent abv, £1.79 for 500ml at Waitrose.
The Hepworth Brewery was established in 2000 at Pulborough, West Sussex by Andy Hepworth after he and some colleagues pooled their redundancy money when the Horsham brewery they worked at was sold and closed. They now produce a range of nine craft ales and lagers.
Their Hepworth Classic Old Ale is also billed as gluten free and suitable for vegans. This is a Sussex traditional winter dark ale made with roast barley providing sweetness offset by bitter Admiral hops. It can be served lightly mulled as a nice change for a winter warmer, 4.8 per cent, £1.99 for 500 ml bottle at Waitrose.
There are vegan-friendly lagers, too. Camden Hells Lager is a novel creation by trendy Camden Town Craft Brewery, London. Helles (with an ‘e’) is a type of German beer and Pilsner is another. Camden ‘Hells’ (no ‘e’) is a clever 50:50 mix of the two styles.
The starkly industrial front label is eye catching and the back label full of useful and readable information including “suitable for vegetarians and vegans, unpasteurised”. Crisp, fresh and dry, 4.5 per cent, £1.95 for a 330ml bottle at Waitrose. A little pricey but an excellent premium lager.