Beer is not by default vegan or even vegetarian. It's one of those things that many people, even some vegetarians/vegans, don't tend to realise or think about because "how does beer have meat in it?" after all; a question we have been asked on many occasions. Well it is a fact that many beers use animal products (isinglass (from fish bladder), gelatine, egg whites, sea shells, honey, dairy, amongst other things) in the brewing process; specifically the filtering process. Although this may not end up in the final product, the fact remains that a part of an animal has been abused to get it to that point, so for that reason any pure ethical veggie or vegan would normally choose their brew carefully.
The next follow up question is then normally; what beer do you drink and how do you know it is okay? Sadly the majority of beer bottles are not labelled as well as many food items are these days and it is a very rare thing to see a cask beer in a pub clearly labelled as such (and indeed the cask version is even less likely to be veggie or vegan anyway due to increased likelihood it has been filtered). Let's just say that the industry has got a way to go in their labelling let alone their brewing process when it comes to veggie and vegan options.
It can be frustrating being surrounded by multiple local ales in a pub to then have to resort to a mainstream offering that you know is okay. However, vegan ales are out there and with a little research, a bit of help and an enjoyable amount of exploration you can discover a world of tasty and ethical vegan brews.
Below is a selection of the ones we have enjoyed over the last month or so (notice that is past tense as the bottles have already been emptied!). Art Brew, Batemans and Samuel Smiths all label their bottles as vegan (so we love them for that!).
For a reliable and up to date reference to vegan beers, wines and ciders you can't get better than Barnivore and there are even Apps available through their site now if you are a techno freak!