There’s a certain time in most people’s lives when their diet is made up of a healthy balance of the two major food groups: pizza and beer. As a college student myself, I’ll admit I partake in the two almost religiously.  However as a vegan I have to look a little harder to meet my basic college diet needs. Though it is fairly easy to find vegan pizza, finding vegan beer can be tricky.

You may be thinking, ‘what animal products could possibly be in beer?’ But once you start digging, you would be surprised at how many non-vegan ingredients are commonly used in this fine beverage. Some such ingredients include isinglass, gelatin, charcoal, pepsin, lactose, and even insects in some cases! Isinglass, the most common non-vegan ingredient in beer, is used as a clarifier in the brewing process and is derived from the dried swim bladders of fish. Another common ingredient is Albium, which is also used in the brewing process and comes from animal blood.

Though this may be hard to face, don’t be discouraged: there are alternatives –  and they’re not that difficult to find. Many beer makers cater to a vegan lifestyle, including Amstel, Corona, Heineken, New Belgium Brewery, Pabst Brewing, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and Tecate. Unfortunately, there are just as many – if not more – that use animal products in their beer. Some companies to steer away from are Castle Rock Brewery, Guinness, Newcastle Brown Ale, and Red Stripe.

Basically, a true vegan should treat their beer like any other product: with extreme skepticism. With all the hidden animal products out there, it’s hard to make sure what you are consuming is cruelty free. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources online to guide you in the right direction, and if you are still unsure you can contact the company itself and they will let you know if their product is appropriate for your lifestyle.