Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegan Beer Brewing

A few of my forthcoming blog entries for VeganMoFo 2011 will document my attempt to brew some beer.  I've been muttering about brewing beer for several years, but I never seemed to get around to doing it.  Many of my beloved friends grew weary of these mutterings and collectively shipped me a home brewery for my birthday this year.  It is now time for me to stop muttering and to start brewing.

The first thing I need to do is to figure out what's vegan and what's not.  Most beer, in general, is vegan.  There are many beers that use animal products in their clarification and filtering processes, but your average home brewer is not going to employ them.  (If you're curious about the vegan-friendliness of your favorite mass-produced beers, check out  So far, my home brewery contains two questionable products: BTF Iodophor and Super Grunge Remover (sodium carbonate).  My cursory Web research suggests that both of these products are pretty simple chemicals with no obvious animal origin, but I e-mailed the manufacturers for the final word.  If they turn out to be non-vegan, I can fall back Five Star Star San. Here's an e-mail exchange I had with the manufacturer:

I'm interested in using your Star San product for home brewing. However, I prefer to use products that are:

100% cruelty free (not tested on animals)
100% free of animal by-products (no animal-derived ingredients of any kind)

Can you confirm that this product meets my criteria? 

Thank you!
To which Jon Herskovits responded via his iPhone: 
All the ingredients in star San are on the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list. This means they don't need bunny testing. You are good to use all five star products.

Jon Herskovits

Sent from my iPhone
"Bunny testing" sounded a little patronizing, so I thought I would press for more information:
Thank you very much, Jon, for your response.  Could you also respond explicitly to my other question, about whether your products (Star San specifically) contain animal-derived ingredients?  (I intend to share this information with readers of my blog, by the way.)

I really appreciate your time,
To which I finally got a satisfactory, if terse, response:
No they are not animal derived.

Sent from my iPhone
 Thank you, Jon!  I feel bad about pestering him while he's on the go, but it's worth it to move forward with confidence in this long-overdue endeavor.


  1. Yeah, I thought "bunny testing" sounded a little patronizing, too. Glad you followed up. My sweetie's been wanting to get into home beer brewing. When we saw Sandor Katz recently he encouraged us to go for it, noting that you don't need a lot of fancy equipment to get started. It looks like you have a bit of fancy equipment. I'm excited!!

  2. Stephen,
    I have tried twice to respond to your information request regarding BTF Iodophor. Please send your inquiry again with a back-up email address. For some reason the original one sent continues to have some issues. Thanks much and welcome to the wild and wonderful world of brewing!

    Murl Landman
    Executive Vice President
    National Chemicals, Inc.

  3. mlandman, thanks for your comment! I did eventually get your excellent e-mail; my server was suffering some DNS issues. My response is brewing.

  4. adriennefriend, thanks for exposing me to self-proclaimed "fermentation fetishist" Sandor Katz. Fascinating.