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Drinking Habits

Is All Alcohol Vegan? A Comprehensive Look at Wine, Beer, and Spirits

Published:
July 16, 2023
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12 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 16, 2023
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12 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 16, 2023
·
12 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 16, 2023
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12 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 16, 2023
·
12 min read

Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, cheese, butter, honey: these are just some of things vegans eliminate from their diet. Most vegans also eliminate any byproducts derived from animals or insects, including ones used during food processing. But what about alcohol? Are wine, beer, liquor, and spirits vegan-friendly? 

While some people assume that all alcoholic beverages are vegan, this isn’t entirely true. In this post, we’ll explore what types of alcohol are vegan and provide recommendations for vegan drinks. Let’s dive in!

So … Is Alcohol Vegan?

Well, yes and no. Some alcoholic beverages are vegan, and some aren’t. There are two reasons some alcohol isn’t vegan: 

Some alcoholic beverages may contain ingredients with an animal product. For instance, milk may be used in a White Russian cocktail or eggs in Advocaat, and mead is made from honey.

Some alcoholic beverages use animal products during the process of fermentation. For instance, animal-derived foods are often used as “fining agents'' to help remove impurities and improve the clarity, flavor, and aroma of alcoholic beverages. 

What Non-Vegan Ingredients Are in Alcohol? 

These are some of the more common non-vegan ingredients and fining agents used in alcohol: 

  • Milk and cream. These dairy products are sometimes used in cocktails and blended drinks or added to beer and liqueurs to give a creamy, rich flavor.
  • Whey, casein, and lactose. These milk byproducts are occasionally used as ingredients in alcohol or fining agents. 
  • Honey. Honey is fermented to make mead, and it’s used as a sweetener in some alcoholic beverages.
  • Eggs: Otherwise known as albumin, egg white protein is often used as a fining agent in wine. Eggs can also be added to some cocktails.
  • Isinglass. This popular fining agent is derived from fish bladders.
  • Gelatin. Gelatin, derived from animal skin, bones, and cartilage, is commonly used as a fining agent.
  • Cochineal and carmine. Carmine, made from scaly insects called cochineal, is a red dye added to some alcoholic beverages for color.
  • Chitin. This byproduct of insects or shellfish is often used as a fining agent.
Diagram about common non-vegan ingredients used in alcohol

Is Beer Vegan?  

Most beer is vegan. Many popular beer brands are made from four main ingredients, all of which are vegan: water, a grain like barley or wheat, yeast, and hops — a flower that provides beer’s distinct, bitter taste. 

Here are some more specific types of vegan beer:

  • Vegan lagers. Lagers are some of the most popular beers in the world. Some of the more common vegan lagers include Budweiser and Bud Light, Coors and Coors Light, Corona Extra and Corona Light, Michelob Ultra, Miller Genuine Draft and Miller High Life, Heineken, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Guinness Draught and Guinness Original and Yuengling.
  • Vegan pale ales. Pale ales differ from lagers as they are brewed with top-fermenting yeast compared to a bottom-fermenting used to create lager. Popular vegan pale ales include Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Bear Republic Racer 5, Torpedo IPA, Harpoon IPA, and Lagunitas IPA. 
  • Vegan stouts. Some of the more popular vegan stouts include Heavy Seas’ Peg Leg Imperial Stout, Anderson Valley Brewing Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, Sierra Nevada Stout, AleSmith Brewing Company Barrel-Aged Speedway Stout, and Goose Island. 

This list is by no means exhaustive! Many other beers on the market are vegan, including many craft beers. For instance, most West Coast IPAs, Belgian Abbey Ales, and other craft beers are vegan.

What Types of Beer Aren’t Vegan? 

Certain types of beers aren’t vegan, as they use some of the non-vegan ingredients listed above, such as isinglass, gelatin, whey, lactose, and honey:

  • Cask ales. Otherwise known as real ales, cask ales are a traditional British brew. They often use isinglass as a fining agent.
  • Honey beers. Some types of beers have added honey for sweetness and flavor.
  • Meads. Mead (honey wine) is a beer-like alcohol beverage made by fermenting honey. 
  • Milk stouts. These usually contain whey or lactose, though some vegan alternatives exist.

Sometimes, young beers can look cloudy. While the beer naturally becomes clearer over time, beer manufacturers add refining agents, such as gelatin and isinglass to aid the filtering. While these refining agents are removed afterwards, small amounts of gelatin and isinglass may have been absorbed in the beer. 

Can Vegans Drink Wine?

So, what about wine — is wine vegan? Not always.This is because of a process called “fining.” Similar to young beer, shortly after wine is produced, it can appear cloudy. While this isn’t harmful to consumers, most of us like our wine to appear as clear as possible. Interestingly, wine can be filtered naturally, but it takes a long time to get to vintage wine level. So manufacturers tend to speed up the fining process using fining agents, many of which aren’t vegan. 

The most common animal products used for the fining process include isinglass, gelatin, albumin, and casein. Winemakers use different clarifying agents for various resious. Some are better suited for white wine, while others are better for red. 

While this list is by no means exhaustive, most wines from the following brands aren’t vegan:

  • Apothic
  • Barefoot Wine
  • Black Box Wines
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle
  • Franzia Wines
  • Sutter Homes
  • Robert Mondavi

What Types of Wine Are Vegan?

Vegan wines do exist, and more and more manufacturers are starting to make them. Instead of using animal-derived products for the fining process, vegan wines use clay-based fining agents, such as bentonite, or proteins derived from wheat, corn, legumes, potatoes, or other plants. 

These are some of the more popular vegan wines:

  • Cycles Gladiator
  • Frey Vineyards
  • Lumos Wines
  • Red Truck Winese
  • The Vegan Vine
  • Charles Shaw (red wine only)
  • Yellowtail (red wine only)

We can also enjoy a 100% organic and vegan prosecco from Bellissima Prosecco. Christie Brinkley’s eco approach means that even the packaging uses organic ink and environmentally-friendly material. 

Again, this list is by no means exhaustive, but these are some of the widely known vegan wines. 

What About Liquors and Spirits? 

So, what about liquors and spirits? Is vodka vegan? Unlike beer and wine, spirits rely on a process called distillation, in which alcohol is concentrated from fermented ingredients. They are usually free of animal-based ingredients. Nearly all unflavored hard liquors — including bourbon, whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila, and rum — are vegan.

Keep in mind, however, that non-vegan ingredients may be added to spirits when making cocktails. Watch out for these potentially non-vegan spirits and cocktails:

  • Coffee cocktails: White Russians, Irish coffees, espresso martinis, and other popular coffee cocktails may contain milk or cream. Baileys, a whiskey made with cream, is also not vegan. 
  • Dessert cocktails: Grasshoppers and mudslides, which are usually blended with ice cream, are not vegan. Similarly, Jell-O shots contain gelatin, making them non-vegan.
  • Honey-flavored spirits: Some rums, whiskeys, and cocktails contain honey, but it’s usually part of the product’s name, making it easy to determine whether it’s vegan or not.
  • Campari alternatives: Though it once contained carmine, Campari — a popular red liqueur — is now vegan. However, similar mixers may still use carmine for their red hue. 

How Can I Determine Whether My Alcohol Is Vegan? 

Determining whether wines or beers are vegan can be challenging. While some companies list ingredients voluntarily, it’s not mandatory in the United States or Europe for most alcoholic beverages. Substances that have been used during processing and later removed, such as isinglass and gelatin, seldom make it onto labels. 

Here are some tips for determining whether certain types of alcohol are vegan:

  • Look for vegan symbols: Wineries aren’t always required to list ingredients (including fining agents like isinglass and gelatin) on the label. However, a lot of wineries will indicate whether their wine is vegan by including text or a vegan trademark. Similarly, some (but not all) craft breweries include a vegan status on the product label.
  • Look for a carmine statement: In the U.S., manufacturers are required to mention carmine. Look for phrases like “contains carmine” or “contains cochineal extract” on the label. 
  • Ask the manufacturer: One of your safest bets for determining whether an alcoholic product is vegan is to ask the manufacturer or the shop (if you purchased it in a specialty store). While many products are clearly labeled as vegan, some may still contain animal-derived ingredients, such as casein. 

Go online: You can easily find a list of vegan-friendly brands on popular websites. Barnivore in particular catalogs the vegan status of over 47,000 alcoholic beverages, including beers and wines. A simple Google search can also do the trick. 

How To Approach Alcohol as a Vegan?

So, can vegans drink alcohol? Yes! There are plenty of vegan drinks out there, and more manufacturers are making their alcoholic beverages vegan-friendly. Some manufacturers are even eliminating the filtration process altogether, in favor of allowing the process of clarification to occur naturally. Many liquor stores now carry a great selection of vegan-friendly liquors, making different options easy to find. 

As for ordering drinks at restaurants and bars, always make sure to ask if they have vegan alcoholic beverages available. You might be surprised: some places have their own vegan-friendly drinks menu!

Furthermore, if you order a cocktail, make sure to ask what’s in the cocktail. For instance, ask which milk is used in a pina colada. Traditional pina coladas are made with coconut milk, but some bars use cow milk since it’s cheaper. 

Similarly, many trendy cocktails, such as whiskey sours, contain egg whites. You can always ask the bartender to omit the egg whites. They might even have aquafaba as a substitute. 

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that while many alcoholic beverages are naturally vegan, some include animal products as ingredients or during processing. For those of us following a strict vegan diet, it’s best to avoid products without a vegan label or to double check with the manufacturer. Thankfully, more manufacturers are making vegan-friendly alcoholic beverages. 

If you’re looking to cut back on your drinking or eliminate alcohol from your life entirely, come see us at Reframe. We’ve helped millions of people change their relationship with alcohol and become healthier, happier versions of themselves.

Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, cheese, butter, honey: these are just some of things vegans eliminate from their diet. Most vegans also eliminate any byproducts derived from animals or insects, including ones used during food processing. But what about alcohol? Are wine, beer, liquor, and spirits vegan-friendly? 

While some people assume that all alcoholic beverages are vegan, this isn’t entirely true. In this post, we’ll explore what types of alcohol are vegan and provide recommendations for vegan drinks. Let’s dive in!

So … Is Alcohol Vegan?

Well, yes and no. Some alcoholic beverages are vegan, and some aren’t. There are two reasons some alcohol isn’t vegan: 

Some alcoholic beverages may contain ingredients with an animal product. For instance, milk may be used in a White Russian cocktail or eggs in Advocaat, and mead is made from honey.

Some alcoholic beverages use animal products during the process of fermentation. For instance, animal-derived foods are often used as “fining agents'' to help remove impurities and improve the clarity, flavor, and aroma of alcoholic beverages. 

What Non-Vegan Ingredients Are in Alcohol? 

These are some of the more common non-vegan ingredients and fining agents used in alcohol: 

  • Milk and cream. These dairy products are sometimes used in cocktails and blended drinks or added to beer and liqueurs to give a creamy, rich flavor.
  • Whey, casein, and lactose. These milk byproducts are occasionally used as ingredients in alcohol or fining agents. 
  • Honey. Honey is fermented to make mead, and it’s used as a sweetener in some alcoholic beverages.
  • Eggs: Otherwise known as albumin, egg white protein is often used as a fining agent in wine. Eggs can also be added to some cocktails.
  • Isinglass. This popular fining agent is derived from fish bladders.
  • Gelatin. Gelatin, derived from animal skin, bones, and cartilage, is commonly used as a fining agent.
  • Cochineal and carmine. Carmine, made from scaly insects called cochineal, is a red dye added to some alcoholic beverages for color.
  • Chitin. This byproduct of insects or shellfish is often used as a fining agent.
Diagram about common non-vegan ingredients used in alcohol

Is Beer Vegan?  

Most beer is vegan. Many popular beer brands are made from four main ingredients, all of which are vegan: water, a grain like barley or wheat, yeast, and hops — a flower that provides beer’s distinct, bitter taste. 

Here are some more specific types of vegan beer:

  • Vegan lagers. Lagers are some of the most popular beers in the world. Some of the more common vegan lagers include Budweiser and Bud Light, Coors and Coors Light, Corona Extra and Corona Light, Michelob Ultra, Miller Genuine Draft and Miller High Life, Heineken, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Guinness Draught and Guinness Original and Yuengling.
  • Vegan pale ales. Pale ales differ from lagers as they are brewed with top-fermenting yeast compared to a bottom-fermenting used to create lager. Popular vegan pale ales include Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Bear Republic Racer 5, Torpedo IPA, Harpoon IPA, and Lagunitas IPA. 
  • Vegan stouts. Some of the more popular vegan stouts include Heavy Seas’ Peg Leg Imperial Stout, Anderson Valley Brewing Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, Sierra Nevada Stout, AleSmith Brewing Company Barrel-Aged Speedway Stout, and Goose Island. 

This list is by no means exhaustive! Many other beers on the market are vegan, including many craft beers. For instance, most West Coast IPAs, Belgian Abbey Ales, and other craft beers are vegan.

What Types of Beer Aren’t Vegan? 

Certain types of beers aren’t vegan, as they use some of the non-vegan ingredients listed above, such as isinglass, gelatin, whey, lactose, and honey:

  • Cask ales. Otherwise known as real ales, cask ales are a traditional British brew. They often use isinglass as a fining agent.
  • Honey beers. Some types of beers have added honey for sweetness and flavor.
  • Meads. Mead (honey wine) is a beer-like alcohol beverage made by fermenting honey. 
  • Milk stouts. These usually contain whey or lactose, though some vegan alternatives exist.

Sometimes, young beers can look cloudy. While the beer naturally becomes clearer over time, beer manufacturers add refining agents, such as gelatin and isinglass to aid the filtering. While these refining agents are removed afterwards, small amounts of gelatin and isinglass may have been absorbed in the beer. 

Can Vegans Drink Wine?

So, what about wine — is wine vegan? Not always.This is because of a process called “fining.” Similar to young beer, shortly after wine is produced, it can appear cloudy. While this isn’t harmful to consumers, most of us like our wine to appear as clear as possible. Interestingly, wine can be filtered naturally, but it takes a long time to get to vintage wine level. So manufacturers tend to speed up the fining process using fining agents, many of which aren’t vegan. 

The most common animal products used for the fining process include isinglass, gelatin, albumin, and casein. Winemakers use different clarifying agents for various resious. Some are better suited for white wine, while others are better for red. 

While this list is by no means exhaustive, most wines from the following brands aren’t vegan:

  • Apothic
  • Barefoot Wine
  • Black Box Wines
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle
  • Franzia Wines
  • Sutter Homes
  • Robert Mondavi

What Types of Wine Are Vegan?

Vegan wines do exist, and more and more manufacturers are starting to make them. Instead of using animal-derived products for the fining process, vegan wines use clay-based fining agents, such as bentonite, or proteins derived from wheat, corn, legumes, potatoes, or other plants. 

These are some of the more popular vegan wines:

  • Cycles Gladiator
  • Frey Vineyards
  • Lumos Wines
  • Red Truck Winese
  • The Vegan Vine
  • Charles Shaw (red wine only)
  • Yellowtail (red wine only)

We can also enjoy a 100% organic and vegan prosecco from Bellissima Prosecco. Christie Brinkley’s eco approach means that even the packaging uses organic ink and environmentally-friendly material. 

Again, this list is by no means exhaustive, but these are some of the widely known vegan wines. 

What About Liquors and Spirits? 

So, what about liquors and spirits? Is vodka vegan? Unlike beer and wine, spirits rely on a process called distillation, in which alcohol is concentrated from fermented ingredients. They are usually free of animal-based ingredients. Nearly all unflavored hard liquors — including bourbon, whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila, and rum — are vegan.

Keep in mind, however, that non-vegan ingredients may be added to spirits when making cocktails. Watch out for these potentially non-vegan spirits and cocktails:

  • Coffee cocktails: White Russians, Irish coffees, espresso martinis, and other popular coffee cocktails may contain milk or cream. Baileys, a whiskey made with cream, is also not vegan. 
  • Dessert cocktails: Grasshoppers and mudslides, which are usually blended with ice cream, are not vegan. Similarly, Jell-O shots contain gelatin, making them non-vegan.
  • Honey-flavored spirits: Some rums, whiskeys, and cocktails contain honey, but it’s usually part of the product’s name, making it easy to determine whether it’s vegan or not.
  • Campari alternatives: Though it once contained carmine, Campari — a popular red liqueur — is now vegan. However, similar mixers may still use carmine for their red hue. 

How Can I Determine Whether My Alcohol Is Vegan? 

Determining whether wines or beers are vegan can be challenging. While some companies list ingredients voluntarily, it’s not mandatory in the United States or Europe for most alcoholic beverages. Substances that have been used during processing and later removed, such as isinglass and gelatin, seldom make it onto labels. 

Here are some tips for determining whether certain types of alcohol are vegan:

  • Look for vegan symbols: Wineries aren’t always required to list ingredients (including fining agents like isinglass and gelatin) on the label. However, a lot of wineries will indicate whether their wine is vegan by including text or a vegan trademark. Similarly, some (but not all) craft breweries include a vegan status on the product label.
  • Look for a carmine statement: In the U.S., manufacturers are required to mention carmine. Look for phrases like “contains carmine” or “contains cochineal extract” on the label. 
  • Ask the manufacturer: One of your safest bets for determining whether an alcoholic product is vegan is to ask the manufacturer or the shop (if you purchased it in a specialty store). While many products are clearly labeled as vegan, some may still contain animal-derived ingredients, such as casein. 

Go online: You can easily find a list of vegan-friendly brands on popular websites. Barnivore in particular catalogs the vegan status of over 47,000 alcoholic beverages, including beers and wines. A simple Google search can also do the trick. 

How To Approach Alcohol as a Vegan?

So, can vegans drink alcohol? Yes! There are plenty of vegan drinks out there, and more manufacturers are making their alcoholic beverages vegan-friendly. Some manufacturers are even eliminating the filtration process altogether, in favor of allowing the process of clarification to occur naturally. Many liquor stores now carry a great selection of vegan-friendly liquors, making different options easy to find. 

As for ordering drinks at restaurants and bars, always make sure to ask if they have vegan alcoholic beverages available. You might be surprised: some places have their own vegan-friendly drinks menu!

Furthermore, if you order a cocktail, make sure to ask what’s in the cocktail. For instance, ask which milk is used in a pina colada. Traditional pina coladas are made with coconut milk, but some bars use cow milk since it’s cheaper. 

Similarly, many trendy cocktails, such as whiskey sours, contain egg whites. You can always ask the bartender to omit the egg whites. They might even have aquafaba as a substitute. 

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that while many alcoholic beverages are naturally vegan, some include animal products as ingredients or during processing. For those of us following a strict vegan diet, it’s best to avoid products without a vegan label or to double check with the manufacturer. Thankfully, more manufacturers are making vegan-friendly alcoholic beverages. 

If you’re looking to cut back on your drinking or eliminate alcohol from your life entirely, come see us at Reframe. We’ve helped millions of people change their relationship with alcohol and become healthier, happier versions of themselves.

Summary FAQs

1. Is alcohol vegan?

Some alcohol is vegan; some alcohol is not. It depends on whether the drink contains animal-derived ingredients or fining agents. Most of the time, beer is vegan. Wines are not always vegan. And nearly all liquors are vegan. 

2. Can vegans drink alcohol? 

Yes! There are plenty of vegan drinks out there and more manufacturers are making their alcoholic beverages vegan-friendly.

3. What non-vegan ingredients should I look out for? 

Some of the more common non-vegan ingredients and fining agents used in alcohol include milk and cream, whey, casein, lactose, honey, eggs, isinglass, gelatin, cochineal, carmine, and chitin. 

4. How can I tell whether my alcohol is vegan? 

Always be sure to check the label, ask the manufacturer, or go online to a site like Barnivore, which catalogs thousands of vegan alcoholic beverages. If you’re at a restaurant or bar, ask if they have a vegan-friendly alcohol list or ask what ingredients they use in certain cocktails. 

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