Find out why many NA beers aren’t suitable for a vegan diet. Plus, discover nine of the best non-alcoholic beers and lagers for vegans.
In its purest form, beer consists of four ingredients – water, grain, yeast and hops.
Why then are many beers – including non-alcoholic beers – not suitable for a vegan diet?
Sometimes it’s to do with additional animal-derived ingredients. These can include lactose (milk sugar), which brewers use to make their beers fuller, sweeter and creamier.
Other non-vegan ingredients can include honey and a colouring made from insects called cochineals.
Animal-based finings and packaging
In most regions including the EU, non-alcoholic drinks must declare the ingredients on the packaging (unlike drinks over 1.2% ABV).
But this doesn’t mean the absence of animal-derived ingredients on the label means your beer is suitable for a vegan diet.
This is because some brewers use animal-derived finings near the end of the brewing process to filter out organic compounds such as yeast and hop particles, improving the clarity of their beers.
These finings can include gelatine, egg whites and isinglass, which is made from the dried swim bladders of fish (and often described as “fish guts” – nice). These are rarely mentioned on the labelling when used.
The packaging itself can also include animal-derived products, as some adhesives still use collagen from animal bones.
9 of the best non-alcoholic vegan beers
The good news is many producers of non-alcoholic beer have committed to not using animal products in their beers and in their packaging.
Here are nine of the best alcohol-free beers suitable for vegans.
- Score: 7.6 out of 10
- Selected stockists (UK): Zeroholic* (use the code STEADY at checkout to get 10% off your Zeroholic order), Amazon*, Wise Bartender* Booze Free
Hazy amber with a gorgeous head, the aroma is sweet and malty, while the flavours feature fruity esters with a gentle bitterness.
- Score: 7.6 out of 10
- Selected stockists (UK): Amazon*, Wise Bartender*, Good Stuff Drinks* (use the code STDR5 at checkout to get 5% off your Good Stuff Drinks order)
Each of Drop Bear Beer Co’s non-alcoholic beers is vegan and gluten free. “Bonfire Stout”, which doesn’t feature lactose (milk sugar) like other leading NA stouts, is the pick of the bunch from this South Wales brewery.
Smoked malts in the grain bill give this beer a subtle smokey aroma and taste. It also melds cocoa, liquorice, coffee and oak flavours with a touch of grapefruit from chinook hops to form a strangely effective combo.
- Score: 8.6 out of 10
- Selected stockists (UK): Amazon*, Wise Bartender* (use the code STEADY at checkout to get 5% off your Wise Bartender order)
As an American-style pale ale, there’s plenty of tropical fruits in the aroma and flavour. This is backed up by a well-balanced caramel maltiness with bitterness that complements rather than overpowers.
The mouthfeel is smooth and gentle, and will appeal to real ale drinkers.
A few brewers have had a go at a non-alcoholic sour, but few have cracked it.
Tempest Brewing Co has. “Drop Kick” is a 0.5% version of the brewery’s full-strength “Drop Kick Me Jesus” sour beer.
It’s stuffed with aromatic new world hops and has a diverse grain bill, exhibiting the best flavours of a bitter ale and a sour in one bottle.
These include lychee, grapefruit, mango, pineapple and pale malts with a touch of acidity that encourages slow sips.
- Score: 7 out of 10
- Selected stockists (UK): Wise Bartender* (use the code STEADY at checkout to get 5% off your Wise Bartender order)
This lager from Scottish brewery Jump Ship features zesty hops, giving it a different aroma and flavour profile to Lucky Saint (above).
The aroma features toffee and caramel, mixing with tropical fruit and floral notes.
Less gassy that a typical lager, the mouthfeel is smooth and accommodating, while the taste features more caramel, fruit and light malt flavours.
- Score: 7.4 out of 10
- Selected stockists (UK): Hop & Hemp
The flavour of CBD apparently works well in a beer, and you don’t notice anything out of the ordinary in this IPA. It features caramelised biscuit and loads of citrus and tropical fruit from Citra, Cascade and Mosaic hops.
- Score: 8.3 out of 10
- Selected stockists: Amazon*, Wise Bartender*, Booze Free and many supermarkets and convenience stores
“Nanny State” – launched in 2009 as a 1.1% beer but now at 0.5% – is one of the beers that kicked off the recent non-alcoholic beer revolution.
Available pretty much everywhere, it may not be as exciting as some of the other vegan NAs on this list. But it’s still a great beer with a complicated grain bill and five types of hop offering plummy, citrusy aromas and flavours.
Importantly, there’s no lactose (milk sugar) in the ingredients – unlike several other Brewdog alcohol-free beers.
- Score: 7.2 out of 10
- Selected stockists (UK): Amazon*, Zeroholic* (use the code STEADY at checkout to get 10% off your Zeroholic order), Good Stuff Drinks* (use the code STDR5 at checkout to get 5% off your Good Stuff Drinks order), Wise Bartender*, Coast (use the code FIVE at checkout to get £5 off your order)
Grapefruit features heavily in the aroma and taste of its Hazy IPA. It also has a deliciously sticky mouthfeel and lots of other fruity flavours, with minimal maltiness.
- Score: 7 out of 10
- Selected stockists (UK): Wise Bartender*
This Bavarian helles beer is Nirvana Brewing’s flagship lager and one of several core beers it produces, which are all suitable for vegans.
There’s plenty of tasty pale maltiness in this beer, along with a touch of caramel and spicy hop aroma making for a surprisingly complex flavour.
Over to you
What’s your favourite non-alcoholic vegan beer? Leave a comment below or tweet me @steadydrinker.