Your Beer has a Secret (and you’re not going to like it).

The clear amber hue? Thank the fish bladder that filtered out yeasty sediments.
That creamy head of foam? It comes courtesy of a froth conditioner derived from the gastric enzymes in a pig’s stomach.

Water, malt, hops, yeast: the label might list as few as four ingredients, when in fact a whole host of unnamed additives were used as brewing ingredients or processing agents. It’s a dirty little secret of the beer industry.

There can be hidden animal by-products in your beer. It’s troubling, to say the least, and if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, keep kosher or eat halal, it’s wholly unacceptable.

And it’s not just beer—animal-derived ingredients and agents make unannounced appearances in virtually every aisle of the supermarket. Gelatin from pig skin puts the chew in gum and licorice and the creaminess in frozen cheesecake . You’ll find beef fat in Twinkies, fish oil in Tropicana’s Heart Healthy Orange Juice, and dough conditioners sourced from duck and chicken feathers that are added to bagels and donuts.

As for beer, with the exception of specialty brews made with honey or dairy products, animal products are most commonly used for flavoring, coloring, head retention, and as a clarifying agent. Not all brewers and brewing processes use them—animal-free alternatives are often available—but they appear almost universally in English and Irish brews (yes, Guinness too), and in beer that has been cask-conditioned. The U.S. doesn’t require labeling for animal ingredients or agents in beer, and even the stringent Reinheitsgebot, Germany’s 500-year old purity law, permits their use.

See if your favorite brew is animal friendly: Barnivore maintains a massive and up-to-date list of the vegan options available through nearly 1,500 breweries world-wide.

Perhaps in homage to cock-ale, a 17th century favorite, the Boston Brewing Company recently cooked up a Sam Adams beef heart brew that is served exclusively in David Burke’s restaurants.

 

 

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4 Responses to Your Beer has a Secret (and you’re not going to like it).

  1. john says:

    Here is a solution: Brew your own beer! It is so easy to make your own great tasting homebrew for very little money.

  2. Interesting article and comments. I was completely surprised at the use of animal products as additives to create certain qualities in beer. But let me be clear: After I got the “ewww” out of the way that knowledge won’t change my beer selections. But that’s what I have now…knowledge. And without transparency and incomplete information others won’t be able to make an educated decision on what they eat.

  3. Janice says:

    I am not denouncing the use of animal products in beer. I am. though, advocating for greater transparency and better labeling. You complain that people whine about these things when they are free to make their own choices; the problem is that they can’t make educated ones with incomplete information. And while this might not exactly be a ‘secret,’ it is not all that widely known.

  4. Cheryl Stoy says:

    Excuse me while I get on my soapbox, have a cold one and toast one of my favorite foods…pig. Now for the rant:

    What “dirty little secret” are you referring to? When I did a research paper a few years ago on beer brewing all this info was readily accessible. Meat has been a part of the beer brewing process since the Middle Ages. No big secret there…no hidden agenda…especially if you’ve ever studied Western Civilization. This artcle reminded of one I came across a few years ago by a dietician who claimed letting kids lick left over cake or brownie batter would cause them to catch more illnesses and create determintal eating habits later in life. Please.

    If you eat keep kosher or eat halal, you already know what items to avoid and you have alternative items within your cultural base to choose from. If you order cock-ale or Sam Adams Beef Heart brew you know darn well you aren’t getting a “vegan” beer so why the reference? What you did here was reference stuff from another blog that was published in Novemeber 2010. A blog which also supports “using meat in brewing”. The article was questioning technique, not denoucing using of meat in the brewing process.

    Unless there are chunks of meat flooating in the finished product, I find this hoopla a bit overdone…as most articles on “meat fear” usually are.

    Stop creating hysteria and fear when it is not needed in order to write about vegan, organic and gluten-free foods. This is where so many “healthy” food advocates miss the mark. Promote healthly eating in a positive fashion and concentrate on the alternative products that can be used. Stay away from the “holier-than-thou” attitude and “scare tatics” .

    We do a lot of healthy eating at our house. We make our own bread, yogurt and pasta, home brew organic coffee beans, buy free-range, Kosher and organic foods when we can and support local farmers markets. And we do it because foods and preparations were presented to us, not in a politically and socially correct fashion, but in a “tatse good” fashion.

    And remember, not everyone can afford organic foods. What I fail to find from most health advocates is any effort to get vendors to offer decent pricing for healthy or organic items. Sticking “organic” and “vegan” or “gluten-free” on an item prices it right out of many household budgets and the underprivileged especially can’t afford it. You go out to eat and order “free-range” or “farm-to-table” entrees and it jacks the bill up into atmospheric levels.

    I accept that some people do not like to eat meat or poultry or consume foods prepared certain ways. What I can’t accept is that once they make their choice, they then feel the need to preach and use misleading information to condemn my choices.

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