I had what many people would call a ‘typical’ college experience when it came to alcohol. I drank a little too much most weekends during my freshman and sophomore year (sorry mom and dad), ate poorly, and made a lot of wonderful memories. During my junior year I started to become more interested in health and wellness. I was now vegetarian, I ran my first marathon, and rarely drank alcohol. This pattern progressed further during my senior year. It was then that I decided to become vegan, run an ultra-marathon, and suddenly found that a glass or two of wine left me feeling tipsy.
When I became vegan I did not think how it would relate to my alcohol consumption. As far as I was aware I simply wouldn’t drink Bailey’s Irish Cream since it contained dairy products. I happily drank beer, wine, and spirits in moderation. However, I soon realized that not all alcohol is vegan. So why not?
Beer & Wine:
MANY beer and wine companies use a ‘fining agent’ when making their products. For beer and wine to be clarified a process called ‘fining’ is used. The fining agent acts like a magnet that attracts haze-inducing molecules to help remove unwanted particles and leave the alcohol clear and bright.
So what does this have to do with veganism? Many major brands use non-vegan fining agents such as casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein), or isinglass (fish bladder protein). The agents are not additives to the wine or beer but rather are removed with the hazing molecules.
When I discovered this I was a bit baffled, I wondered how I would ever be able to drink alcohol if I so chose. Good news is that there are many brands out there that do not use these fining agents. If you’re vegan and want to know if your favorite beer or wine is vegan simply head over to Barnivore.com. This website has thousands of beers, wines, and spirits listed and will let you know exactly what is and isn’t vegan. Fortunately for me, homebrew is done on a much smaller scale and fining agents aren’t necessary. This means that whenever I am home at my parents’ house I can partake in the consumption of my dad’s beer knowing that no animals were harmed during the process.
Like I said before almost every type of liquor is vegan. But what about Bailey’s? While the traditional Irish Cream is not vegan, last year the company released an almond milk version. I had the pleasure of trying some this past holiday season and can attest that it is as delicious as it sounds.
Do vegans even drink alcohol?
The vegan community on Instagram and Youtube can be quite intimidating at times. You see a lot of people who spend money of fancy super foods, living in tropical places, have ‘perfect’ lives, and talk about how they never EVER drink alcohol. And while that is how they have chosen to live, that isn’t what a majority of vegans live like. I think the main reason so many well-known vegans don’t drink is because alcohol isn’t healthy. As much as we want to believe that bottle of red wine is “good for our heart”…lets be real, it’s not.
Don’t get me wrong, I love eating a whole foods plant based diet and I rarely eat processed foods. But that doesn’t mean I should feel guilty for having a brownie or drinking a beer. There are plenty of non-vegans who choose to not drink and there are plenty of vegans who do drink. I must say that in this past year I have cut back on the amount of alcohol that I consume. I found that I would often drink when I was hanging out with friends just because everyone else was, not because I wanted to. Now I ask myself if I feel like having a drink; not because other people are but if I genuinely feel like it. I believe you don’t have to drink alcohol in order to have a good time and you don’t need to drink just because everyone else is.
Drinking alcohol is 100% a personal choice. When I have a few drinks I wake up the next morning feeling a little off and sluggish. Because of this I don’t drink all that often. For me it’s all about finding balance. I have no desire to get drunk, vomit, and feel like crap the next morning. In moderation I enjoy drinking alcohol even though I know that it is not the epitome of health. We shouldn’t feel pressure from society to drink and we shouldn’t feel guilty if we have a few beers.
If you’re vegan, thinking about going vegan, or simply want to cultivate a healthier lifestyle, just know that doesn’t mean you have to completely cut out alcohol. Barnivore.com is a savior when it comes to navigating the world of vegan alcohol. Just know that the choice of whether or not to drink alcohol is ENTIRELY UP TO YOU. Stay safe and (if you choose) drink responsibly.