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Water, malt, hops and yeast: with a list of ingredients such as these, beer would seem to be a suitable drink for everyone, vegetarians and vegans included. And yet, without detailed labeling, there can be no guarantee that the beer we are offering with the best of intentions to our vegan friend is truly cruelty-free. On an industrial scale, many beer producers use animal-based substances and, even though it is simple to identify the most important clearly outlined ingredients on the label such as honey, used to give the drink its sweet flavour, the problem arises with those used in the tiniest percentages. In many countries, comprising Italy and the USA, there is no legislation that obliges producers to mention them in the list of ingredients, and they may also include additives that are not suitable for vegans.
Some examples? One of the additives used in the beer clarification process, whose purpose is to eliminate the cloudy appearance of this beverage, may be isinglass, an additive extracted from the swim bladder of fish – or the gelatine used in cake making which is the result of processing pig and cow waste. Other ingredients that are possibly less well-known are cochineal – a colouring obtained from the insect of the same name and often used to enhance the amber tone of drinks – or pepsin which is used to control the formation of froth.
Of course there are numerous small manufacturers producing craft, pasteurized or raw beer, using nothing but vegetable ingredients and whose labels provide a complete list of them all, also certifying to their compatibility with a vegan diet. The pluri-prizewinning Epic Brewing of Salt Lake City offers over 10 types of beer, whose traceability is guaranteed by the reference code printed on the label. One of the products marketed by the Oregon-based Ninkasi Brewing Company is Vanilla Oatis made from oats, hops and roast malt, with whole vanilla pods. Modern Times Beer produces 4 different canned beers: Blazing Worls, Black House which recalls chocolate covered roast coffee beans, Lomaland and, last but not least, Fortunate Islands with an aroma of mango, mandarin orange and passion fruit.
A forthcoming event will provide a golden opportunity to taste some of these exquisite 100% vegetarian beers: next 4 October in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, just a few steps away from the coast and the Pacific Ocean, the World's First Vegan Oktoberfest will take place on spacious grounds set out picnic-style and equipped with all the necessary facilities, with the aim of creating the same atmosphere as the traditional German bierfest, aided by an offering of entertainment, shows, and concerts, not to mention the considerable number of vegan food trucks typical of Los Angeles and, of course, numerous booths run by the best vegan beer producers of the United States. The entrance fee is 45 dollars which entitles you to a beer mug you can carry with you throughout the day and fill to your heart’s content – responsibly of course – with any of the beers on display.
In the words of organizers David Edward Burke and Jill Ryther of Red Pill Productions, a Los Angeles association that defends animal rights, “Vegan Oktoberfest will be a festive, authentic, and social atmosphere that makes the bar scene seem dull by comparison,” says Burke. “There’s no reason an event can’t be both outrageously fun and animal- friendly.” “The event will change the way that people view Oktoberfest and veganism,” says Ryther. “Our event will feature some of the best vegan food and I can’t wait to show people how good cruelty-free can be.”