As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Yet, some beers use odd assortments of animal ingredients in their processing—that makes them not vegan. This is comparable to the way some companies make cane sugar into white sugar and explains why vegans usually prefer brown sugar or alternative sweeteners. During the brewing process, beer and wine are filtered—sometimes through isinglass (from fish bladder,) gelatin, egg whites, or sea shells. While these filtrates do not affect taste, by choosing a vegan beer you can sip worry-free (and in moderation).
LaBelle Winery makes vegan fruit wines, though their grape wine is not vegan. This New Hampshire winery has a wide selection of dry, semi-dry, dessert, and sparkling wines. They also have seasonal offerings, such as Sugar Maple Liqueur. There are many options for vegan vinos—it is best to consult directly with the company or check a vegan wine directory before purchasing.
Although the same hold true for beers, there are vegan brands available in most locations. Bud Light, Miller, Corona, Coors Light, Heineken, and Dos Equis are all suitable for vegans. While manufacturers must state the ingredients of the beer, they are not required to materials used during processing. But you can check the ingredient label to make sure your beer is not sweetened with honey. Craft breweries tend to brew their beers in small batches and may vary their ingredients form one batch to the next so it is best to inquire before you imbibe.
Most liquors are vegan—feel free to indulge in Bacardi, Smirnoff, Amaretto, and Tequila. Thus, vegans can generally enjoy mixed drinks and cocktails without worrying. With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, it only seems appropriate to discuss vegan Bailey’s and Irish Coffee. Although traditional Bailey’s and Irish Coffee are not vegan—they are made with milk—it is easy to substitute soy creamer or flavored milk alternatives in these drinks. Most milk alternatives can replace dairy milk one-for-one; although you may need to adjust the amount of sweeteners if using flavored milks. A little trial and error never hurt anyone.
For the truly adventurous, consider brewing your own alcohol. While technology has improved since the Prohibition-era “bathtub Gin,” distilling your own spirits is quite a time commitment. At times, it can seem more like a chemistry experiment than a culinary recipe. Still, there are home brewing kits that help to simplify the process—think of it like buying boxed cake mix—all you need to do is add a few ingredients and follow the directions.
Although most companies do not advertise that their alcohol is free of animal products, there are plenty of commercially available vegan spirits to suit your needs. Most large brands tend to stick to the same methods so you can be assured that brewing methods are consistent from batch to batch. From grocery-store brands to craft breweries, you will surely find the right, vegan drink without going through the trouble of home brewing. Cheers!