For 256 years, Guinness has brewed the stout recognizable everywhere by its dark color and foamy goodness. But now, the Irish beermaker announced a big change in the brew’s formula – albeit one that should not affect the taste in any way.
The company has announced that by the end of 2016, the beer will stop being made with isinglass – a substance made, surprisingly, from dried fish bladders.
Isinglass is added to fresh beer in order to easily remove yeast and other particulates that clump up at the bottom of the barrel. Guinness has used isinglass to filter its beer since the 19th century.
The reason Guinness is making the change: to become vegan.
In a statement released by the brewery, the company said that, “Isinglass has been used widely within the brewing industry as a means of filtration for decades. However, because of its use we could not label Guinness as suitable for vegetarians and have been looking for an alternative solution for some time.”
With today’s beers, you typically do not see little bits of yeast floating around in the bottle or glass. That is because beer companies filter the stray yeast with isinglass.
But, as you probably already know, Guinness does not have a fishy flavor. The reason for that is because the isinglass, along with the yeast, is strained and filtered out before the beer is bottled and sealed.
So, while the isinglass is filtered from the beer before consumption, thereby making the end product technically vegetarian, trace amounts of the fish bits may linger. As a result, the brew is off-limits for vegans and hardcore vegetarians.
And, despite a desire to become vegetarian, brewers have not found a perfect substitute replacement for isinglass. Biochemist and Cornell University food scientist Karl Siebert observes that, “Brewers use diatomaceous earth because it’s a very good filtration system to take out very sticky stuff like yeast. But it’s pretty hard to come up with something that works as well as a gelatin or isinglass.”
And while Guinness has not announced exactly what it plans on using for its new filtration system, many are very happy the company is making the change.
Irish reporter, Liam Stack, states that, “We are always happy to see another product become suitable for vegans, especially because this one is very iconic here in Ireland.”
A spokesman for advocacy group Vegan Ireland, Edmund Long, says that Guinness “is one of the products you associate with Ireland.”
As of now, Guinness does not expect to sell “animal-free” stout until the end of 2016.