Bob Brewer answers your questions about the world of beer & brewing.
@orangetreeleics (via Twitter): Heard on the grapevine Anchor Steam is vegan, is this true?
Bob: Is Anchor Vegan? In a word, yes.
In today’s world of dietary awareness there are a lot of words and phrases being thrown around to describe comestible products and their supposed makeup and content. We are all familiar with such terms as “organic,” “non-GMO,” and “gluten free,” which have specific and well-known definitions. There are other catch phrases that are intended to imply a greater level of healthfulness or ecological benefit such as “sustainably produced” or “farm-to-table,” which are nebulous and ill-defined.Strictly speaking, when referring to food, the term “vegan” means completely free of animal derived products of any kind. This includes eggs and dairy. However it does not mean that the food is organic, non-GMO, gluten free, or anything else except animal product free.
In the case of beer, the ingredients are all plant-derived except for some specialty beers like bacon beer, or similar. However, there has been a bit of vegan nit-picking around the edges lately. It’s a known fact that historical beers, particularly British cask ales, were clarified using a product called isinglass. Isinglass is derived from the dried swim bladders of fish and therefore constitute an animal product, which renders beer thusly produced non-vegan. Other products of a non-animal origin have been used in the same clarification process for many years, although isinglass is still used by some small British and American breweries that want to produce an historically authentic cask-conditioned beer.
Modern brewing equipment and methodology have all but eliminated the use of isinglass on a commercial basis, and Anchor does not use it.
There has been some misguided double and triple nit-picking by the more activist vegans who claim that there are two other things in beer that render it non-vegan. The first is diatomaceous earth – or D.E. – which is used as a filtration medium. D.E. consists of the skeletal shells of diatoms, microscopic sea creatures, which are mined from ancient sediments. The argument was that diatoms were fauna rather than flora, and their use in the brewing process made the beer non-vegan. To my mind that is a huge stretch and the biologists tell us that diatoms are algal in nature and therefore in the plant kingdom.
Likewise for the triple nit-pick whereby an old debate on the nature of yeast is resurrected. Way back in the mists of antiquity, in the infancy of microbiology when the nature of microbial life was as yet not completely understood, yeast was considered by some to be a fungoid and by others to be bacterial in nature. The debate was short-lived and scientific study determined yeast to be a fungus, i.e. a plant.
So all you vegans out there can hold true to your dietary practices and enjoy a fine, truly vegan, Anchor Steam Beer – or any Anchor brew, for that matter.
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