A huge rise in the number of vegetarians and vegans in Britain has lead to a growing number of brewers to look for alternatives to isinglass as a clearing or “fining” agent. A report in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide has supported the move away from the traditional beer clearing method.
Omnivores may be oblivious, but not all beer is vegetarian or vegan due to the addition of isinglass. Made from the swim bladder of a fish and typically added to beers in order to attract excess protein and yeast, isinglass is used to produce a clearer pint in your glass. Although odourless and tasteless, for those drinkers who prefer not to consume animal products, the rise in the range of vegan beers has been welcomed.
Just this year, Irish brewing giants Guinness began using a vegan alternative to isinglass to refine their stout and other large brewers are expected to follow.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham are looking into whether the hop plant may have another role to play in beer production. Their research suggests that a combination of fresh and “spent” hops (hops which have been used in the brewing process) may be as effective at producing clear beers as isinglass.
Some breweries such as Bristol’s Moor Beer, have decided that skipping the fining process altogether is a simpler solution. Moor Beer head brewer Justin Hawke has suggested that isinglass can strip beer of some of it’s flavour. Consequently all beers the brewery produces are served naturally cloudy. Justin Hawke attributes his love of cloudy beer to the wheat beer he drank while stationed in Germany for military service.
Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz has written his support of the move away from isinglass use, saying that “Not only are drinkers happy – but so are fish!”