Grapes, hops, wheat, barley – these simple, plant-based ingredients are what come to mind when we think of beer and wine. But that’s not always the full story. It may surprise you to learn that some fermented beverages aren’t vegan. Or even vegetarian.

To filter their products, some breweries and wineries rely on non-vegetarian gelatin, made from animal skin and bones, or non-vegetarian isinglass, made from fish bladders. Others use non-vegan ingredients, such as egg whites, cow’s milk or honey. The tricky thing is that these additives and filtering agents are rarely listed on the label. Non-vegan wines are usually non-vegetarian, too, but figuring out which beverages are suitable for vegetarians and vegans may take work.

“Most wines are not vegan but a handful are,” said Keith Tannenbaum, who carries at least a dozen vegan wines at his wine, beer and spirits shop, The Vault, in Lewiston. He added that vegan and vegetarian beers are much easier to find than vegan wines. Happily, the availability of vegan wine is slowly increasing.

The growth of natural and organic wines has upped the number of animal-free varieties on the market, Tannenbaum said. He’s also seeing more wines labeled “vegan-friendly” or even certified by a third party as vegan.

One invaluable resource in the search for animal-free drinks is The site provides a searchable directory that lists the vegan status of close to 60,000 beers, wines and spirits.

“In general, vegan-friendly beverages have always been available, but they’re not typically advertised as such so it takes a bit of digging,” Barnivore founder Jason Doucette told me via email.


Doucette founded Barnivore in 2008, but its roots stretch to 2001 in a now defunct vegan message board called, whose name was racier than its PG content.

“Anecdotally, it feels like companies are more aware of the vegan community over the past 20 years (our questions used to take people by surprise),” Doucette wrote, “and the growing presence of plant-based products in grocery stores has helped, but there doesn’t seem to be any hard and fast trend in one direction or another. Of course, the switch by Guinness to stop using isinglass back in 2017 (after 256 years!) was a big win, but in the overall marketplace, products come and go and individual drinks from the same company may or may not contain animal products or use them in their processing for a variety of reasons.”

Barnivore, which relies on its own research as well as information sent in by users, lists dozens of Maine breweries and beers. To name just a few, the site lists vegan-friendly beers brewed by Gritty’s, Sebago, Bissell Brothers, Foundation, Peak Organic and Maine Beer Company. The site indicates that Allagash and Lone Pine produce some vegan-friendly beers and others that are not. The site lists both Sea Dog and Shipyard as using non-vegetarian isinglass in their production process.

All the beers at Rising Tide Brewery, except the limited edition release Pisces, are vegan. Photo courtesy of Rising Tide Brewery

Rising Tide, in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood, is listed as vegan-friendly, a fact the brewery addresses on the frequently asked questions page of its own website. “Over the years, we certainly have had people ask if our beer is vegan,” Rising Tide co-owner and business operations director Heather Sanborn said. “It doesn’t come up as often as concerns about (vegan options) on our tasting room menu, but it does come up.”

Rising Tide’s limited edition release Pisces is its only beer not considered vegan-friendly. The beer is made with sea water, which may contain microscopic zooplankton. Rising Tide was founded in 2010, and Sanborn said the brewery initially used isinglass to filter some of its beers.

“We phased that out years ago,” Sanborn told me. “There are a whole bunch of different techniques for clarifying beer that don’t involve any sort of fish-based process.”


Portland is overflowing with options for vegan beer and wine. The Eighteen Twenty winery in East Bayside, which makes wine from rhubarb rather than grapes, is all vegan. “Our wines have absolutely no animal products whatsoever as we used a clarifying agent called Sparkolloid (which is made of diatomaceous earth) to remove the sediment and haze from our wines,” the Eighteen Twenty website states. “Otherwise our wine ingredient list consists of: rhubarb juice, water, cane sugar, wine yeast, yeast nutrient, and potassium metabisulfite to keep it fresh in the bottle.”

Nonalcoholic beer brewery Kit NA, in Bayside, prints “Vegan Friendly” on its packaging and on the landing page of its website. The Green Elephant restaurant in the Arts District carries vegan wines, and Newcastle restaurant Salt + Pepper Social, which is closed for the season, continues to sell vegan wines and frozen vegan meals for occasional delivery to Portland.

Chaval, which is located in Portland, served these vegan wines during special wine dinners in January. All were produced in Italy. Photo courtesy of Chaval

Since December, Chaval in the West End has hosted several wine dinners with vegan food and wine. Its next vegan wine dinner is scheduled for Feb. 21.

Chef/co-owner Damien Sansonetti said that in general, he’s found that European wineries produce more vegan wines than elsewhere, and also that non-traditional wine styles are more likely to be vegan.

“Some wineries use it as a marketing tool and some don’t, so it’s still in the hands of the consumer to investigate,” he said.

His advice for wineries: “If you’re putting stuff in your wine, cool. Just label it and let us all know so we can make a choice. There shouldn’t be this mystery about it.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. Reach her at

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