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What Is Vegan Alcohol?

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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2016
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Vegan alcohol is a type of spirit, wine, or beer manufactured without any animal products as a dedicated vegan diet dictates. Contrary to some misconceptions, eating vegan does not require abstaining from alcohol. Several alternative methods are available for making different types of alcohol with vegan-friendly processes. The ingredients that many vegans avoid in alcohol include a clarifying agent known as isinglass, as well as various gelatin ingredients derived from swine or cattle. Vegan alcohol brewers typically use a plant-based or a synthetic clarifying ingredient such as bentonite or kaolin.

Eating vegan generally requires some close attention to listed ingredients in both foods and beverages. The main area of concern regarding alcohol for a vegan is the process used to remove excess matter from wine, beer, or hard liquor. This manufacturing phase, sometimes called fining the alcohol, removes matter that would otherwise result in a cloudy appearance once the alcohol is bottled.

Beers often need to be fined to have the desired taste and appearance. Some types of wines also usually need to be fined to remove excess tannins that would otherwise make the end product too bitter. Animal products used in the alcohol fining process can sometimes include derivatives from the bladder lining of fish, the bone marrow of cows, or sometimes from the albumen found in eggs.

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A vegan diet calls for using non-dairy foods as alternatives to any milk-based ingredients, and this consideration extends to the accepted ingredients for making vegan alcohol. Casein is a milk derivative that is sometimes used for fining as an alternative to isinglass, and it is found in wine more often than other types of alcohol. A common substitute for both casein and isinglass in vegan alcohol is bentonite, a polymer derived from certain types of clay.

Depending on the specifics of alcohol labeling laws, manufacturers in different regions may be required to include the animal-based fining agents on their lists of ingredients. Isinglass from seafood by-products is often classified as a fining aid rather than an actual part of the finished mixture, so it may not always appear on the label for easy reference. The same can sometimes apply to other gelatin products that are frequently used to trap and remove sediment from beers that are brewed in casks. Many vegan alcohol producers actively try to circumvent this common problem by clearly listing their fining agents on their product labels regardless of whether the local laws require them to do so.

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