Real ale undergoes a secondary fermentation while it is being stored in the cask. Cask-conditioned ales need fining to clear the material, such as the yeast suspended within the liquid. This is typically done by adding isinglass, which is derived from the swim bladders of fish, to gather up the yeast and make it sink to the bottom of the cask. Bottled naturally conditioned beers will not always have been treated with isinglass. Keg beers and lagers are pasteurised and usually passed through Chill Filters, as are canned beers and some bottled beers. However, a considerable number of breweries still use isinglass to clear their pasteurised beers.
Some brands may have been fined using gelatine.
Wine / Fortified Wine
Animal derived ingredients are used in the processing of wines to improve appearance of the finished product. Non animal alternatives do exist in the form of bentonite (impure clay), kieselguhr (sedimentary rock), kaolin (clay mineral) and silica gel. Also, methods such as centrifuging and filtering are becoming more popular. A large number of organic wines do not use animal derived finings but it is always worth seeking clarification if unsure. Fortified wines include Port and Sherry. Port may be fined using gelatine and sherry should be treated in a similar way to wine.
Spirits & Liqueurs
Most spirits appear to be acceptable to vegetarians/vegans as they do not tend to involve the use of animal substances. However, some malt whiskies may have matured in sherry casks which had previously held sherry that has been treated with animal derived finings. Brandy itself is not produced from wine which has undergone any fining processes. There are many liqueurs suitable for a vegetarian/vegan diet.
E120 cochineal may be used as a colorant in a small number of red wines and soft drinks.
Vegetarian/Vegan Alcohol Availability
There is a wide variety available both in supermarkets and online, some of which may already be labelled with the manufacturer’s own interpretation of what is suitable for vegetarians/vegans. For a full guarantee of product suitability, the Vegetarian Society approves numerous brands of alcoholic beverages which can be viewed on our approved database www.vegsocapproved.com. Other good places to look are; Vinceremos Organic Wines - www.vinceremos.co.uk, Barnivore - www.barnivore.com and Veggie Wines - www.veggiewines.co.uk
Last updated September 2013
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