I’m a confirmed meat eater. Before I go on I’d like to apologise to all my vegetarian and vegan friends and readers. Bacon and sausage would be my weakness. I could probably live on cheese alone for my protein were it not for these essential food groups. Fillet steak is nice once in a while, but to be honest, it’s a bit overpriced for what it is. Still, I respect, if remain baffled, by the altruistic stance on not eating things that walk, swim, fly or otherwise move autonomously.
Cask beer almost always contains isinglass. This is a processed fish product. It is very, very good indeed at removing certain particles from beer that might make it cloudy. In particular it helps promote yeast flocculation.
It is possible to get beer acceptable bright from cask without isinglass, and there are brewers do it. However, it’s not likely to be something that is universally accepted in the short term within the UK, much as I’d like it to be.
What this effectively means is that, by the strict rules, our cask beers are not suitable for vegetarians or vegans. It’s OK for pescetarian and veggies who ignore the fish product issue, because beer is more important. But principled vegans and vegetarians shouldn’t really be drinking cask beer and I know a few who won’t.
Bottles and keg are a different matter. Despite the fact that we use minimum filtering and in many cases bottle condition it is much easier to get bright beer in these formats without the use of isinglass. For keg we settle bright in tank before we rack. Because the keg is hermetically sealed and positively pressurised there is no need to have live yeast in the keg, although in our case there is very likely to still be a few thousand per ml.
For bottle conditioning the cell count may well be similar to that for cask. If the bottle is not settled a faint haze will be visible. However, the volume is small, and therefore the distance the yeast has to travel to get to the bottom is much less than cask. A very thin and compact layer is the result after 24 hours in the fridge even without isinglass.
Our kegs and bottles are all very suitable for vegans. We can guarantee that there are no traces of animal DNA anywhere in these products. If it used to have eyes, or teeth, or legs, or fins, we ensure that none of its body parts have been processed and slung in our beer for the reasons of scrubbing s beer just a little bit brighter.
I’d love to hear from veggies about their thoughts on this matter. Do you care? Or is beer more important than principles? Or are you actually disgusted that the issue of fish products in beer isn’t more widely broached?