Is Beer Vegan? The Ultimate Guide to Picking Your Next Vegan Brew

Good news: Your vegan lifestyle won't stifle your love for beer.

is beer vegan hand cheers photo illustration

Treehugger / Joshua Seong

The world’s most popular drink by volume, beer is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented starches, mainly cereal grains like barley, wheat, corn, rice, and oats. The grains are converted to sugars, fermented using yeast, then flavored with hops.

The vast majority of commercially available beers are vegan, including some of the country’s most popular beers. Certain beers, however, are filtered or fined using animal-derived products like isinglass and gelatin, making those beers non-vegan.

Labeling laws in the United States don’t require brewers to disclose their ingredients, so knowing through what your beer has been filtered can be challenging. We’ll help you understand what makes a beer vegan and how to pick one to pair with your next meal. 

Why Most Beer is Vegan

Beer begins as cereal grains, mostly barley, that is malted (or heated up until the grain partially opens), mashed, and mixed with water. That starchy liquid is then boiled and cooled. Brewers then add yeast to the mix, which turns the sugars in the starch into alcohol, fermenting the beer. Eventually, the yeast and remaining sediment sink to the bottom of the barrel. The new beer is then siphoned off into another barrel, leaving the sediment behind. 

For most beers, this is the entire process. As the process and ingredients do not use animal products, most beer is vegan. Some vegan and non-vegan beers, however,  also go through a fining (or clarifying) process to remove additional sediment using a fining agent. More often than not, vegans will rejoice to know, this is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to beer. Additionally, for beers that do need fining, animal-free carrageenan can be used in place of non-vegan agents.

A Plant-Based Win

As the vegan market continues to expand, more and more brands are changing their traditional fining methods to vegan-friendly options. Guinness was notoriously verboten by vegans for decades because its full-bodied stout was fined using isinglass, but in 2017 Guinness switched to vegan-friendly methods for Guinness Draught, Guinness Extra Stout, and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. Vegans can expect to see more of these announcements as demand for vegan-friendly products grows.

It’s difficult, however, to tell from most beer labels whether or not your favorite brew is vegan. Unlike the Food and Drug Administration, which requires the labeling of food, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) does not require breweries to disclose their ingredients.

Despite proposed rules to label major allergens, including eggs and milk pertinent to vegans, the TTB doesn’t show signs that we’ll see this labeling any time soon. 

Because most beers are vegan, commercially produced beers are unlikely to be labeled as such. You may see more vegan trademarks on craft brews (beers from smaller breweries). Your best bet for cruelty-free guzzling is to do some research on Barnivore—you may be surprised how many of your favorites are already vegan.

When Is Beer Not Vegan?

While it’s less common in beer production than in wine production, fined beers are often not vegan. After the yeast is removed, certain brewers clarify their beers with fining agents that remove “cloudiness” and make the beer clear and bright.

Two typical fining agents in beer are not vegan—isinglass and gelatin—but some beers are also fined using carrageenan, a vegan-friendly gelling agent made from Irish seaweed. No fining agent remains in the drinkable beer, but beers processed with animal products are considered non-vegan. 

Beyond the use of fining agents, there are other beers that contain animal products like beers sweetened with honey, meads (made fermented honey, water, and flavors), and milk stouts (which are fermented using purified lactose, a sugar from milk).

Did You Know?

Climate change brings with it higher global temperatures and drought, threatening the accessibility and affordability of beer worldwide. Barley yields (the staple grain in beer) substantially decrease during periods of extreme heat and drought. For different regions around the world, that means higher costs for beer consumers and steep decreases in beer consumption.

Types of Vegan Beer

Above view of tin bucket containing 2 open corona's with lime
Corona is a popular and vegan-friendly beer brand.

Kevin Trimmer / Getty Images

Beer is one area where vegans really do get to enjoy a gamut of brands, flavors, and varieties. You’ll see many of these vegan brews on menu after menu. Plus, we’ve thrown in a handful of craft beer for all the hopheads out there.

  • Allagash (except for honey beer)
  • Beck’s
  • Budweiser (except for the Clamato Chelada)
  • Busch
  • Coors (varieties sold in the US only)
  • Corona
  • Guinness (Guinness Draught, Guinness Extra Stout, and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout)
  • Goose Island
  • Heineken (varieties sold in the US only)
  • Kingfisher
  • Lagunitas
  • Michelob (except for honey beers)
  • Miller Light
  • Modelo
  • Modern Times
  • Natural Light
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon
  • Peroni
  • Pilsner Urquell
  • Yuengling

Types of Non-Vegan Beer

In addition to avoiding honey beers, meads, and milk stouts, some traditional beers still use isinglass. This is mostly true of cask ales popular in Britain and very occasionally with porters. 

  • Bold City Cask Beer (American)
  • SweetWater Cask Beer (American)
  • Cask Conditioned (British)
  • Crafty Brewing Cask Ales (British)
  • Cropton - Cask Conditioned (British)
  • Maxim - Cask Conditioned (British)
  • Mayfields Beers - Cask Conditioned (British)
  • Shepherd Neame Cask Beers (British)
  • Funky Buddha OP Porter (American)
  • Laurelwood Tree Hugger Porter (American)
  • Vanish Gingerbread Porter (American)
  • Grey Trees Valley Porter (Britain)
  • Brewster's Porter (Britain)
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Which beer is not vegan?

    While the majority of beer is vegan, some beers—including honey beers, meads, milk stouts, and beers fined with gelatin or isinglass—are not vegan.

  • Are IPAs vegan?

    Generally speaking, yes. There are a few IPA brewers in America and abroad whose products are not vegan, but the overwhelming majority are vegan-friendly.