The Rough Guide to Ethical Alcohol: What Makes Beer, Wine, and Spirits Vegan?

The Rough Guide to Ethical Alcohol: What Makes Beer, Wine, and Spirits Vegan?


If you assume alcohol is naturally vegan, you’d be wrong. Ethical alcohol is harder to come by than you think and even if you think it'd be easy to discern, it's not. Here’s what to look out for when it comes to beer, wine, and spirits.

Animal Byproducts Lurking in Alcohol

Animal derivatives can either be in the beverage itself as an ingredient or can be infused into the drink by way of the filtration process. Some hidden animal byproducts found in alcoholic drinks include: albumen (egg white), albumin (egg or dried blood), carmine (insect), casein (milk), charcoal (animal bone), chitin (shellfish), gelatin (connective tissue of cow or pig), honey (bees), isinglass (fish bladder membranes), lactose (milk), and pepsin (pigs).


Considering wine is made from grapes, it comes as a surprise that animal-derived products would find their way into the mix. Wine is filtered through fining agents that help to remove protein, yeast, cloudiness, and undesired flavors and colorings. Wine producers often apply fining agents that are animal derived, including casein, chitin, albumen, fish oil, gelatin, and isinglass.

Vegan wine, however, is filtered with animal-friendly agents, including carbon, bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, plant casein, silica gel, and vegetable plaques.

The natural wine industry is also growing and offering a completely unfiltered, straightforward wine that is made with minimum or no intervention. The resulting wine bears a unique, quirky flavor and is 100% worth the try.

From the Organic Authority Files


Lager tends to be completely devoid of animal-derived products but ale often contains isinglass, which is used to clarify the liquid. To avoid potentially isinglass-containing beer, steer clear of ale or do your research beforehand to find out which ale brands forgo the fish guts.

Luckily, vegan ale is a growing trend. This year, Guinness ditched isinglass to keep its brew vegan. Many craft beer companies are also hyper-aware of the isinglass subtlety and avoiding its use in their ale production.


Spirits are much easier to navigate than are wine and beer. Spirits are mostly vegan across the board, save for a few imported vodkas that are filtered with charred animal bones or those that are obviously cream-based, such as Baileys and Advocaat.

This list of delicious vegan spirits is most certainly motivating!

Stay Informed

If you are confused about what to order at the bar, take a few minutes beforehand to look up animal-friendly alcoholic beverages on Barnivore and/or Vegaholic, two incredible resources for the buzzed vegan.

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