Happy St. Patrick’s Day: In Search of a Vegan Irish Beer

Last year, my dear Irish hubby found out that Guiness wasn’t vegan. As you can imagine, there weren’t too many smiling faces going round our house that St. Paddy’s Day.

How can beer not be vegan? 
What are they putting in there? 
Are they seriously going to deprive an Irish man from his beer?
It’s wasn’t a pretty sight…

It turns out that the nasty habit of using Isinglass (a substance derived from bladders of fish) as part of the beer filtering process, is still in place with some Irish breweries. We did however hear some rumors about Guinness being vegan in the States and that there might be other vegan Irish beers out there.

So this St. Patrick’s Day I set out to find which well-known Irish beers have been filtered using our fish friends, and which are simply vegan. Using Barnivore, the vegan beer, wine and liquor guide, here is what I found:

Kilkenny Irish Beer.
Kilkenny Irish Beer.

Kilkenny beer isn’t vegan-friendly

In an email written to the managers of Barnivore, the Kilkenny company stated the following:

“We can confirm that Isinglass is used in production of our beers. This product is produced from the swim bladders of certain species of fish found in subtropical waters.”

Beamish r isn’t vegan-friendly

Beamish Irish beer.
Beamish Irish beer.

Beamish company sent a more detailed explanation to the Barnivore team, but the bottom line was the same:

“Finings, a protein – like material, obtained from fish sources, has been used for centuries to clarify beers, particularly those beers which do not undergo filtration. We believe that the finings used to remove brewing yeast from Beamish Stout is completely removed with the yeast (by centrifuging). However, as finings is used in the process, we do not say that Beamish is suitable for vegetarians/ vegans.”

Murphy’s beer isn’t vegan-friendly

Murphys Irish beer.
Murphys Irish beer.

Same story with this Irish beer. As stated by the Manufacturing company, Isinglass is used to filter this beer as well: 

“Isinglass finings is used in the production of Murphy’s Irish Stout. It is not an ingredient however but a processing aid that is used in the clarification stage . Although used in the process it is subsequently removed by centrifugation and is not present in the final product.”

What a shame Murphy’s! 

Smithwicks beer isn’t vegan-friendly

Smithwicks Irish beer.
Smithwicks Irish beer.

Surprise, surprise – what do you know, Smithwicks uses Isinglass as well. Turns out that Smithwicks is the same company that manufactures Kilkenny – both of which are not vegan-friendly.

So maybe an Irish beer manufactured abroad would surprise us? after all we did hear those rumours about Guinness Extra Stout, manufactured in North America, being animal abuse free…

Guinness beer isn’t vegan-friendly

Guinness Irish beer.
Guinness Irish beer.

Well, until not so long ago the Guinness Extra Stout in North America was labeled by Barnivore as vegan-friendly, as unlike the manufacturers in Ireland they have confirmed their beer to be fish bladder free. However, a recent query has changed things and this brand of Guinness joined the Irish variation until further clearance.

Sorry to be the one to break this news!

So what can we do?

in search of a vegan Irish beer. Image: Shutterstock.
in search of a vegan Irish beer. Image: Shutterstock.

That depends on how involved you want to get. If you are keen on an Irish drink this St. Patricks Day, you could just stick to Bulmers Pear or Bulmers Berry (also known as Magners Pear and Magners Berry), which are vegan-friendly. Unfortunately the original Bulmers (Magners) is not.

But if you want to be able to enjoy a vegan Irish beer next year, we suggest that you get active! Write to the companies above, tell them how much you love their beer and how disapointed you are that it isn’t vegan-friendly. Changing the filtering process is easy – all they need to know is that there is enough demand.

You could even join online initiatives such as the petition asking Guinness to start manufacturing vegan-friendly beer

So what are you waiting for?

Get active and have a beautiful St. Patricks Day! 

Cover image: Shutterstock.

Sivan Pardo Renwick

Founder, Director and Chief Editor of The Vegan Woman

Sivan is the founder, director, and chief editor of The Vegan Woman. As a vegan lifestyle expert and public speaker, Sivan leads interactive workshops and online communities that help men and women make the transition into veganism and plant-based diets an enjoyable and uplifting journey.

Sivan is also a writer and contributor on various vegan-living topics, and has been featured on CNN’s Eatocracy, Vegan Weddings HQ, Vegan Views, Vegan Lifestyle magazine, and other national and international platforms.

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