Vegan: For some people it’s a dirty word, for others a sacred pact with mother nature. For most of us, it simply means no meat products whatsoever, and definitely no bacon beers. “Gluten free” can fall under the same umbrella - we all know at least someone who avoids gluten like the plague, and yet there's lots of confusion still over why that is.
But, you know what people like even more than gluten or bacon? Money. And with more than 1 million vegans in America and around 6 million additional vegetarians (who may become vegan in the future or at least lean that way whenever possible), as well as 30% of shoppers choosing gluten-free options, there’s quite an economic opportunity here. Oh, and did we mention that gluten-free and vegan beer might even be cool now?
So, what do you need to know about these vegan and gluten-free beer trends that all the hipsters in Brooklyn and Portland knew years ago?
Vegan Beers: Some History and Background
Before you leave this blog and grab some veal, you should know that many beers are naturally vegan. Yes, that means you drink vegan sometimes without even knowing it.
But don't sit there acting so innocent. Most people reading this blog are already well-aware of what "vegan" means. Some research says as much as 41% of Americans ate less meat last year. And as one study stated, "The appeal and potential for vegan products is expanding beyond the small group of people who avoid animal products for ethical reasons to include the much larger base of consumers seeking healthier, cleaner foods."
According to this company called Google, people are searching for vegan beers pretty often nowadays. So it’s not just your cousin who wears only hemp looking for this stuff.
In addition to being approved by PETA, delicious beers such as Boont Amber Ale and Bagpipes Scotch Ale are vegan. Oh, and even good old ‘Merican beers like Bud Light, Busch Light, and King Cobra Premium Malt Liquor get PETA’s approval, too, so demand is high. So high, that even Guinness is getting in on the game. The famous brewery used to utilize your favorite ingredient - fish bladder - in their brewing process as a clarifying agent, but they’re going (beer) vegan, too.
Speaking of fish bladders, you may remember originally hearing about them, and other noteworthy ingredients used during the brewing process when the self-styled food investigator Vani Hari (also known as "Food Babe") published an incendiary article in late 2013 which criticized big beer. Although many in the beer community have since discounted her claims as overblown characterizations of some fairly common ingredients and brewing processes, the article still has more than 234k likes on Facebook and has been shared countless times. For better or worse, putting beer in the nutritional spotlight can be attributed to some large companies - including Guinness -changing their ways, as well as the emerging conversation around healthier beer options in the first place.
The interest isn't just in America, though. Some Brits even think vegan beer tastes better - like, way better:
“The dramatically improved flavor of unfined beer (“unfined beer” refers to beer without fish bladder or other clarifying agents) has won over drinkers, both vegan and non-vegan, and there is definitely more of a thirst for it now,” Jemma Kington of Moor Beer Company, which has been vegan since its inception, told The Telegraph.
Vegan Beers to Try
- Green Gold - Mikkeller ApS, American IPA | 7.00% ABV, 87 Beer Advocate rating
- Lagunitas Imperial Stout - Lagunitas Brewing Company, Russian Imperial Stout | 9.90% ABV, 84 BA rating
- Celtic Gold Ale - Dunedin Brewery, Kölsch | 5.50% ABV, 82 BA rating
- Return Of The Empire - Moor Beer Company, English (IPA) | 5.70% ABV, not yet rated on BA
What’s the Deal with Gluten-Free Beers?
If there’s one thing you should teach your children or future children, it’s this: don’t trust every click-bait list they read on Buzzfeed. That said, every time we see headlines like the ones below on our newsfeed showing how delish gluten-free food is, we tend to take it with a grain of salt:
- 25 Gluten-Free Desserts That’ll Make You Forget All About Flour
- 23 Of Your Favorite Comfort Foods, Without The Gluten
- 19 Ways To Stay Gluten-Free This Holiday Season
The truth is, some things are very difficult to replicate in the gluten-free form. When it comes to beer, though, we've found a growing, and pretty solid collection on shelves and taps. Gluten-free beer can actually be good.
As with vegan beer, lots of people are interested in gluten-free beer. That makes sense, as people with gluten intolerance - think those afflicted by dermatitis herpetiformis or celiac disease - have limited options if they want to enjoy a delicious brew. Even with non-malt beer alternatives like mead and hard cider on the rise, the growing interest in gluten-free beer is unmistakable.
Less than 10% of the population of the United States actually needs to avoid gluten for health reasons, but that doesn’t stop Americans in general from thinking that gluten-free livin’ is healthier.
According to U.S. News & World Report, “an estimated 30 percent of shoppers are choosing ‘gluten-free’ options, and 41 percent of U.S. adults believe ‘gluten-free’ foods are beneficial for everyone.”
So, it might be a good idea to show up to your next party with a six-pack of gluten-free brews - 30 to 40% of your friends may think it’s healthier, regardless of whether they actually need to avoid gluten. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a great guide to gluten-free beers that you can check out to learn more, and we’ve got some tasty ones to try below.Gluten-Free Beers to Try
- Glutenberg India Pale Ale - Brasseurs Sans Gluten, American IPA | 6.00% ABV, 82 BA rating
- American Dream Gluten Free - Mikkeller ApS, Czech Pilsener | 4.60% ABV, not yet rated on BA
- All the beers from Ground Breaking Brewery
What's ahead for Gluten-Free and Vegan Beers?
With .05% of the population (and growing) following a vegan diet, and projections that the gluten-free products market could be worth $7.59 billion by 2020, get used to finding more and more gluten-free and vegan beers on the shelves at your local liquor store.
If you're looking for something new or feeling adventurous, give them a try and let us know what you think by tweeting @boxbrewkits!