Monday, April 20, 2009

My beef with beer

I love beer. Oh boy do I love beer.

I mean I'll go for a vodka tonic once in a while, and I'm pretty friendly with Pinot Noir, but beer is my BFF. We'll get into other beverages later but for now let's focus on beer.

Beer and veganism do not always get along. This is a big shock to a lot of people. A combination of water, barley, hops and yeast...sounds like it was MADE for vegans! Au contraire, my friends. Even some of you omnivores may be disturbed to learn that in order to clarify some beers (and wines too) manufacturers may use isinglass or gelatin.

Isinglass comes from the swimbladders of fish, and gelatin...well, gelatin comes from the really gross parts of slaughtered livestock.

Does this sound medieval to you? IT IS! Why would we use fish bellies and animal collagen in our beer, when brewers could use seaweed or artificial clarifying agents? Both of these vegan alternatives to isinglass and gelatin are actively used by many beverage companies in their manufacturing process.

Yesterday I received an email from Vegan Chicago (a ridiculously fabulous MeetUp group) with a link to On this site you can look up your favorite poison and see if it is vegan or not. So naturally I looked up a few of my faves. Corona, praise the Lord, is vegan. I was extremely sad to learn that Rock Bottom Brewery, a fantastic chain with a rooftop at it's Chicago location, uses either isinglass, gelatin or both in its brew process. I immediately wrote to Rock Bottom, told them I loved them, and asked them to please get critters out of my beer!

Ok now it is time for homework.

1. Go to and look up your favorite beers, wines or other poisons of choice. What does it say? Make a mental list of your favorite beverages that are vegan so you'll be ready next time you're at a bar, grocery store, family gathering, or frat party.

2. If you love a beer, wine or alcohol that is not vegan, write to the manufacturer! If every one of their customers writes to them asking to veganize their products, they'll listen. It just makes good business sense. That's capitalism, baby! (For bonus points please contact Rock Bottom for me. We need to form a little vegan (or vegan sympathizer) army. I already miss the Walleye Wheat. They have a rooftop, people!!)

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