Vegan Beers UK – How to Pick Vegan Beer in the UK

Vegan Beers UK – it’s time to go all rule Britannia because today I am going to be looking at Beer in the UK. Not just any beer, but I am going to be talking about vegan beer in the UK – specifically providing you with a list of vegan and non-vegan beers in the UK, as well as rules of thumb to follow when visiting your favorite pub or establishment in the UK. Beer in the UK is big business with Brits consuming around 47.11 hectoliters of Beer according to Statista. If you are interested, the UK is actually the 23rd largest consumer of beer per capita consuming 70.3 liters of beer per capita. If it really interests you this is nothing compared to the top beer-drinking nation of the world – the Czech Republic which drinks 288.6 liters of beer per capita (yes, that was not a typo). What’s the most popular beer in the UK – Carling (and to save you some trouble reading on – no, Carling is not vegan). This is a real shame because a lot of beers are vegan in the UK. It just begs the question, which beers exactly are vegan in the UK and which are not?

Vegan Beers UK – How to Pick A Vegan Beer

As a general rule, to pick a vegan beer in the UK make sure to avoid cask beers, milk stouts, sours, meads, braggots, honey beers, and any beers with a non-vegan sounding word in the name. Many of the big beer brands in the UK are vegan, and a lot of bottled, canned, and kegged UK beers are vegan.

Vegan Beers UK – What’s The Vegan Beer Selection Like?

If you are reading this post, it is fair to say I can make three assumptions about you:

  1. You are vegan;
  2. You like drinking beer; and
  3. You live in the UK.

Freaky, right? Okay, now just to hit you with the bad news. Out of everywhere in the world, the UK is home to the most non-vegan beers. Let me repeat that. The UK is home to the most non-vegan beers.

However, if you are a vegan beer drinker it is not all bad news. In the remainder of this article, I am going to explain why the UK has more non-vegan beers than the rest of the world, and what the alternative vegan beer options are for you. I will also go through each of the top 10 selling beers in the UK and tell you if they are vegan or not.

Why are UK Beers Often Not Vegan?

Vegan Beers UK - pint

There are several reasons why the UK has so many non-vegan beers.

  • The issue with Cask Beers: Cask Beers, which undergo a second fermentation in a cask, are usually put through a process called flocculation using isinglass (dried fish bladders). This process essentially makes cask beer appear clearer and brighter. Cask beers are mainly only produced in the UK and sold in UK pubs.
  • No Purity Laws: Purity Laws do not exist in the UK like they do in many other parts of the World. In parts of the World such as Belgium and Germany purity laws exist around beer production. These dictate how certain beers are made and the ingredients used. Such purity laws do not exist in the UK hence why isinglass can be used.
  • Milk Stouts: Milk stouts (or also they can also be called “porters”) are dark, top fermented beers that contain lactose and so are not vegan. Stout is a popular beer in the UK and stout beer originated in the first place in the UK.
  • Mead: Mead is essentially a honey-based beer made from fermenting honey. The beer originated in the UK and is becoming an increasingly popular drink. However, the use of honey makes it not vegan.

Want to learn more about Beer?

Are you vegan and do you enjoy a decent beer? Want to know exactly what to look for when choosing a vegan beer and what to avoid? Then check out some of my other vegan beer articles where you can learn exactly how beer is made and what exactly to look out for when choosing your next vegan beer.

General Rules for Picking Vegan Beers in the UK

In this section, I wanted to share with you some simple rules of thumb you can follow to ensure the beer you are ordering is vegan. It is broken down into 5 easy rules which I follow whenever order beer.

Rule no.1 – avoid cask beers in pubs

As I explained above, cask beers are usually filtered using isinglass. Keg and bottled beers, in comparison, tend to not be fined and so are usually vegan. You will see below that there are quite a few UK beer brands whose cask beers are not vegan whereas their bottled and kegged beers are vegan.  

For example, Fuller’s cask beers are not vegan as isinglass is used – however, all bottle and kegged Fuller’s are not processed with isinglass, making those ones vegan.

The first general rule of thumb then is just to avoid cask beer when visiting a pub and stick to bottles, kegs, and cans instead.

Rule no.2 – avoid Mead, Braggot, and any beer with the word honey/hive/nectar in the name

Mead and Braggot (a hybrid beer and mead) are both easy enough to avoid, given their distinctive names.

However, some beers do have the addition of honey to their brews. Often, these honey beers will have the word “honey” in the name, but not always. These are particularly easy to spot in cans or bottles – just check the back label (thank you Brew Dog Zombie Cake). If you order from a pub, be on the lookout for anything that contains the word honey, hive, or nectar in the name as this will mean the beer has added honey in it.  

Honey Beers will tend to come in the form of artisan and specialty beers. The mainstream beers should not contain honey.

Rule No.3 – Avoid all milk stouts and double-check the ingredients of other stouts

Milk stouts are made with lactose, which is a sugar derived from milk, and so are not vegan.  Chocolate stouts can sometimes contain some form of lactose/dairy. Most Irish stouts, oatmeal stouts, and imperial stouts are vegan – but they are not always. This means it is always best to check the ingredients of any stouts and completely avoid milk stouts if you want your beer to be vegan.

Rule No.4 – Avoid Sour Beers

Avoid sour beers as these beers are usually given a sour taste using some form of dairy.  Sour beers are usually soured with lactose, lactic acid, dairy-based probiotics, or sometimes even yogurt. The word sour is almost always in the name so is easy to spot. Most commonly sour beers take the form of fruit-based beers.

Rule no.5 – Look out for Non-Vegan sounding words in a Beer’s name

This one may sound a bit obvious, but it is nevertheless worth mentioning because beers can have a lot of “unusual” ingredients added to them. For example, completely avoid any beers with the following words in the name:

  • Oyster – duh
  • Bacon – double duh
  • Ice Cream / Cream – self-explanatory
  • Clamato (shellfish)

Be cautious of any beers with the following words in the name as they could mean they are not vegan:

  • Coffee
  • Caramel
  • Pumpkin

Rules of Thumb to follow when picking UK beers

The above are five simple rules of thumb you can follow for helping you choose a beer that is vegan (especially when in the UK). To help make things even easier for you, I have provided below a table of the biggest beer brands in the UK and whether they are vegan or not. In most cases, unless otherwise noted in the table the reason for a beer not being vegan is because of its use of Isinglass. SPOILER ALERT: if you are a cask ale fan there are some cask beers on the vegan side.

Vegan Beers UK – Summary Table

Vegan Beers UKNon-Vegan Beers UK
AmstelAbbot Ale
Asahi Super DryBoddington’s casks
Beck’sBrewdog Zombie Cake (lactose and honey)
Boddington’s bottles & kegsBrewdog Jet Black Heart (lactose)
Birra MorettiCarling
Brewdog (apart from any specialty beers which contain honey and/or lactose – will be marked on the label)Coors Light
BudweiserFuller’s casks
CarlsbergGreene Kind IPA casks
Camden Town BreweryKronenbourg 1664
CobraJohn Smith’s
Corona ExtraLondon Brewing Company casks
Fuller’s bottled beers and kegs (with the exception of Honey Dew)Murphy’s Irish Stout
Greene King IPA bottled and canned beerPadstow draught
GrolschShepherd Neame casks
Guinness draught (keg, bottle, and cans) 
London Brewing Company Kegs 
Newcastle Brown Ale 
Padstow bottled beer (except Padstow Pride which contains honey) 
San Miguel 
Shepherd Neame bottled and draught beers 
Stella Artois beers (but not their apple cider)   
Tennent’s Super 

What about the UK’s top 12 Beers?

Wanting to make this even more helpful to you, below is the list of (at the time of writing) the top 12 vegan beers drank in the UK. For each one, I will tell you whether it is vegan or not. This way you don’t even have to look at the table if you don’t want to.

  1. Carling – NOT VEGAN
  2. Fosters – NOT VEGAN (but it is Vegan in Australia)
  3. Carlsberg – VEGAN
  4. Coors Light – NOT VEGAN
  5. Stella Artois – VEGAN (except their ciders)
  6. Peroni – VEGAN
  7. Amstel – VEGAN
  8. San Miguel – VEGAN
  9. Tennet’s – VEGAN
  10. Birra Moretti – VEGAN
  11. Heineken – VEGAN
  12. Kronenbourg – NOT VEGAN (but it is vegan in France)

Vegan Beers UK - the final sip

Vegan Beers UK – The Final Sip

Let’s start with the bad news, if you drink Carling (the UK’s most popular beer) and you are vegan then I am sorry to inform you that your beer is not vegan. The same goes for drinkers of Foster’s, Kronenbourg, and Coors Light. But, just for a minute here let’s be completely honest with ourselves – if Carling, Fosters, and Coors are your kind of beers then the good news is that there are plenty of similar vegan alternatives available from the biggest and most popular brands in the UK. And, let’s face it, if you have good taste in beer then there are a whole host of other vegan options available for you. The doubly good news is that I am seeing more and more brewers moving their production to vegan-friendly ones. This is true for big brewers, like Guinness who made the huge move in April 2017 of going vegan in production for most of their beers, and smaller craft brewers (you can even get oat milk Stouts!). The beer landscape is changing and if you are vegan it is a truly exciting time.

Vegan Beers UK

…now you know.

Beverage makers may change ingredients and/or manufacturing processes. Always double-check ingredients before purchasing any beverages.

Please Drink Responsibly.

Like What You Are Reading

Need to know more? Think your favorite beer or wine is vegan? How about your favorite Vodka, Tequila, or Gin – think those are vegan? Time to find out – check out some of my other articles:

References (as at 1 January 2022)

Vegan and non vegan beers in England on Barnivore

Vegan and non vegan beers in Wales on Barnivore

Vegan and non vegan beers in Ireland on Barnivore

Vegan and non vegan beers in Scotland on Barnivore

Editorial Team

The Vegan Bev HQ Editorial Team - helping you find the best vegan drink out there!

Learn more with these similar posts