Guinness Beer is Going Vegan

November 11, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

a pint of foamy Guinness beer

No more dried fish bladders. Wait, what?

Vegan beer lovers around the world can rejoice because the deliciously dark, creamy stout will finally be free of animal products. For years, vegans and vegetarians have been pressuring the makers of the Irish beer Guinness to stop using a product called "isinglass" made from dried fish bladders. It seems as though they’ve gotten their wish because Guinness just announced plans to build a new filtration system in 2016.

During the fermentation process, the yeast consumes a starchy sugar source in order to carbonate the beer and create alcohol. However, after the yeast plays its part in the process, remaining micronutrients left over from the hops or barley can make beer look cloudy, as Popular Science reports. That’s where the fish bladders come in — they work their absorbent magic to filter out the beer’s impurities.

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Basically, if Guinness wasn’t filtered, the brewing process would leave behind gross-looking clouds in the beer, which certainly wouldn’t entice people to gulp one down. These leftover clouds wouldn’t hurt anyone or change the taste of the beer, but customers would likely perceive the beer to be spoiled. And strangely, dried fish bladders solve the problem.

This may come as a shock to many Guinness lovers — in fact, the beer’s been brewed with isinglass for all of the 256 years of its existence. Although many people were probably unaware of this, the New York Times reports that isinglass has been used in the brewing industry for decades. But with hopes to please both vegan and non-vegan customers, Guinness has been searching for the perfect way to brew its beer without animal products but also preserve cloud-free appeal.

A Guinness Spokesperson wrote Popular Science in an email, “We are now pleased to have identified a new process through investment in a state-of-the-art filtration system at St James’s Gate which, once in place, will remove the use of isinglass in the brewing process.”

The most common beer filtration method involves absorbent chemicals and physical filters — brewers add an absorbent agent to the beer which attracts clouding proteins and leftover yeast. Then, the liquid is run through a physical filter, often diatomaceous earth, or soil made from fossilized microscopic organisms called diatoms, Popular Science reports. However, the problem with diatomaceous earth is that it’s expensive, difficult to dispose of, and can’t be reused.

Since it’s hard to find better absorbent agents than isinglass or gelatine, Guinness’ new “state-of-the-art” filtration system is likely more expensive than its current one. However, adding a new vegan class of customers could turnover more profit.

Or could it all go horribly wrong?

You’d think even the non-vegans might be happy about drinking a beer that’s processed without dried fish bladders, but the news hasn’t put a smile on everyone’s face. In fact, there’s even a petition on urging Guiness to “keep the fish bladders flowing,” furious that the company might change its time-old beer process “in an effort to appeal to an extremely vocal minority.” Over 13,000 petitioners have already signed, fearful that their beloved Irish beer might lose its delicious taste.

Only time will tell if the new state-of-the-art filtration system can perform up to par with dried fish bladders. True Guinness drinkers won’t settle for anything less than genuine taste when it comes to their cherished beer.

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