After years of outcry from vegans and vegetarians, the beer will stop its use of fish bladders in the filtration process.
For vegans who want to sit down and have a beer with friends, it hasn't always been that easy. However, now they are going to have another option. That's because the favorite of many people, the 256-year-old Irish stout Guinness that everyone loves is going to stop using a product called "isinglass" that was made from dried fish bladders. Consumers have been pressuring them not to use them for years, and they have announced that they will indeed use a new filtration system in 2016.
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CBS News explains that during the fermentation of Guinness, the yeast easy the starchy sugar source (usually barley or wheat) to carbonate the beer and make the alcoholic content. When the yeast is done working, the beer has something called polyphenols that can make the beer look unappetizing.
“U.S. consumers would think there’s something wrong with a cloudy-looking beer—they may think it’s spoiled,” says Karl Siebert, a professor of biochemistry in the food sciences department at Cornell University. “It wouldn’t hurt anyone, and it doesn’t change the texture much. It’s just unappealing.”
Most beers in the US will be filtered before they are served. The process can take quite a while, so they use a fining agent like a gelatin or isinglass (the dried fish bladders).
With the outcry from vegetarians and vegans to change up filtration, Guinness has been looking for a way to satisfy those demands without alienating existing customers because of a change in appearance. After years of working, they have
“We are now pleased to have identified a new process through investment in a state-of-the-art filtration system at St James’s Gate which, once in place, will remove the use of isinglass in the brewing process,” a Guinness spokesperson told Popular Science via email.
Since the spokesperson didn’t get into detail about this filtration system, we asked Siebert about other filtration methods used in the beer industry. One is simply another kind of fining agent called tannic acid (found in lots of different foods, the same compound that makes wine taste dry)—chemically, it works differently than the other fining agents, but it achieves the same end goal of speeding up the settling out process.
"A state-of-the-art filtration system at St James’s Gate which, once in place, will remove the use of isinglass in the brewing process."
The company did have trouble finding something that was still natural, because they didn't want to add chemicals. “Brewers use diatomaceous earth because it’s a very good filtration system to take out very sticky stuff like yeast,” Siebert says. This method isn't always good for the earth, however.
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“But it’s pretty hard to come up with something that works as well as a gelatin or isinglass,” he adds. For now, we just have to guess.