The Irish beer giant has stopped using fish bladders for filtration of its keg beer; cans and bottles to follow suit by the end of the year.
There’s a 17th century English recipe for “Cock Ale” that starts like this, “Take eight gallons of Ale, take a Cock and boil him well; then take four pounds of Raisins of the Sun well stoned, two or three Nutmegs,” and so on, all to be “beat in a Mortar” before bottling.
While “meat beer” may sound a bit disconcerting to the modern ear, anyone who’s had a Guinness or other beer filtered with isinglass has in fact consumed “fish bladder beer.” Much to the chagrin of fish, their dried bladders (formally known as isinglass) make for a great filter to accelerate the clarification of beer.
Guinness may be the best known amongst vegans and vegetarians of the breweries that use isinglass; their products have long been avoided by those who prefer not to have animal parts used in the things they consume. But the company has now announced that big changes are brewing, so to speak. In answer to a question on the company’s website about Guinness now being suitable for vegans, they note:
Yes, it is from the keg format for now. Our new filtration process has removed the use of isinglass as a means of filtration and vegans can now enjoy a pint of Guinness. All Guinness Draught in keg format is brewed without using isinglass. Full distribution of bottle and can formats will be in place by the end of 2017, so until then, our advice to vegans is to consume the product from the keg format only for now.
Given that over 10 million glasses of Guinness stout are consumed daily across the globe – 1.8 billion pints a year – it seems like the move could have some impact. And although finding a vegan replacement might sound simple enough, they have been working on it for years.
A Guinness spokesperson told Popular Science in 2015, “We are now pleased to have identified a new process through investment in a state-of-the-art filtration system at St James’s Gate which, once in place, will remove the use of isinglass in the brewing process.”
And for those who have been drinking Guinness all along who may be concerned about a new formula, not to worry; the recipe has not changed, just the fish guts. And if you miss them, you can always try your hand at brewing some cock ale.
For more on which libations are vegan or not, see the Barnivore Vegan Alcohol Directory for the vegan-friendliness of 31,710 products.