If you’ve gone all-out on your New Year self-improvement buzz and you’re doing Veganuary and Dryanuary then my hat’s off to you. You can bookmark this page til February and enjoy your feeling of smug, sober satisfaction.

If you’re like me and you’re still having the occasional glass of wine or beer with your delicious vegan dinners this month, I have some bad news. Many alcoholic drinks are in fact not suitable for vegans, or even for vegetarians.

But isn’t beer just made of barley, hops and yeast? Isn’t wine just grapes? In a perfect world, yes. But sadly, many commercial producers of wine and beer use products derived from animals as ‘fining agents’ which make the drinks clear and clean to look at. These are materials like gelatin (derived from the bones of livestock) and isinglass (made from fish). They are added to tanks and bind to materials like yeast that make drinks cloudy. This makes them easier to remove and help produce a clearer end product.

Oh dear. So what’s to be done? Does a proper Veganuary have to be dry? Not at all! The Coop has just announced that it will be expanding its selection of vegan wines, using a wide variety of non-animal products as filters. And you don’t have to wait for these new ones to hit the shelves, all supermarkets and wine shops will sell clearly marked vegan wines. If they’re not marked, look for wines that say ‘unfined’ or ‘unfiltered’ – these will not contain any animal products. Otherwise, if you see isinglass, gelatin, casein or albumin/albumen, then this is a wine to avoid.

For more information on how to read labels as a vegan, check out this handy guide, or click here for a list of common beers, ciders and other products that happen to be animal-friendly.

And remember, always drink responsibly – if you are worried about your own drinking habits or that of someone you know, or if you just want to learn more about how to drink safely, DrinkAware provides a number of resources.

Cormac Cleary

Cormac Cleary

Sustainable Food Assistant at University of Westminster and Aramark
Cormac Cleary

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