Beer—it's at every party, at every bar. The foam flows over the top of the ice cold glass and just as you pick it up to take a sip, a disturbing thought crosses your animal-loving, environmentally-friendly mind: Is beer vegan? The answer is complicated. While most beers are vegan-friendly, some beers are not even vegetarian. 

Beer is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting barley, malt, water, hops, and yeast. These are all vegan-friendly products, so where do the animal products fit in?

The Finings

wine, wine barrels, Winery, vineyard, oak barrels
Amelia Hitchens

When beer is being racked into barrels in the later stages of production, finings are added to clarify the beer and clear out the yeast and other impurities before bottling. Finings can include anything that "refines" the beer and includes both plant-derived and animal-derived products. Plant-derived products include Irish moss, Bentonite, and silicon dioxide. However, their animal-derived counterparts include egg whites, gelatin (the boiled or cured connective tissue from animal carcasses), and isinglass (the dried swim bladders of fish). 


sweet, honey, honey dipper
Sam Jesner

In many beers or ciders, honey is used as a natural sweetener. Honey is collected from bee hives after the bees have gathered nectar and regurgitated it enough times for it to form a sticky, syrupy texture. It is the bees' food storage and feeds the hive during winter months. Honey is vegetarian, and while it is a hot topic of debate among the vegan community, it is not technically vegan-friendly because at the end of the day, it comes from animals. 


milk, yogurt, cream, dairy, sweet, dairy product, milkshake
Aakanksha Joshi

Lactose is the sugar molecule found in dairy products. Dairy products are vegetarian, but are strictly not vegan. Lactose is not commonly used in beer, but it can still be found in a few beer varieties. In particular, watch out for milk stouts.

How Can You Tell If a Beer is Vegan?

So, there are two ways that beer can be non-vegan: by employing methods of production that utilize animal products and/or by adding animal products to the final product. Not all companies disclose their methods of production, so it can be hard to tell whether or not the way a beer is made uses animal products. To make matters worse, beers (and alcohol in general) do not have to disclose their ingredients list, per regulation by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Thus, without company disclosure, it is difficult to tell what exactly is going into your favorite brew.

coffee, espresso
Michelle Miller

To tell if a beer is vegan, check out Barnivore, an online database of over 37,000 alcoholic products that will usually be able to tell you if your beverage is vegan or not. The data is gathered from community members sending direct messages to the company and asking about their crafting process, so even if you don't get an answer, you can still reach out to the company and forward the email to the website managers. 

If you don't find what you're looking for on Barnivore, check out They have a list of vegan companies and vegan beers made by non-vegan companies, like the one's listed below.

Vegan Beer Companies:

- Lagunitas Brewing Company

- Samuel Smith

- Little Valley Brewery

- Epic Brewing Company

- Heineken

- Coors and Coors Light (but not in the UK)

- Natural Light

Don't be discouraged that some beer isn't vegan. Many beers are, and vegan options are available everywhere. Stay informed, do your research, and when push comes to shove, have some vegan beers in mind for your next night out on the town.