Why we'll always be vegan


Manifesto pledges are tricksy things.

Doesn’t matter whether you’re a politician or a business - promises have a habit of coming back to bite you. That’s why we thought long and hard about nailing our colours to the mast on this one.

Rival has always been vegan. We’ve never used honey, lactose or any other adjunct other than fruit, coffee or cacao. But the big one in the brewing world is isinglass. For those who don’t know, it’s a kettle fining that promotes clarity. The problem is that it comes from the bladders of fish.

This was at one time predominantly sturgeon. However, cask producers can now use isinglass made from Nile Perch, helping to manage an invasive, non-indigenous species, limiting environmental damage and providing local employment (thanks to Chris at Teme Valley Brewery for the info).

We occasionally bump into active Camra members around Cardiff, and a very nice bunch they are too. However, invariably they’ll ask when we are going to make cask beer. We don’t really have an issue with cask beer. Much of it is excellent - particularly Grey Trees and Brew Monster here in Wales. But it’s never been our thing. We rarely drink it so it’s not really on the radar. We don’t have any enthusiasm for it and so we won’t be making it.

To Camra’s credit, it has urged cask producers to move with public opinion and look for alternatives to isinglass. Trouble is, suppliers will argue that it can’t be bettered if you’re making cask (we use a kettle fining that is derived from seaweed which, we are promised, is sympathetically sourced. Like isinglass, it cannot be detected in finished beer). But this difficulty - looking to brew the best beer you can, which includes using the best ingredients - further puts us off producing cask.

So committing publicly to producing vegan beer, now and for all time, really isn’t a hard decision for us. We are assiduous checkers of ingredients. We are compelled by law to keep records that trace everything we use - every bag of malt or yeast - back to how it originated, and it’s something we happily do.

Sitting here writing this as David Attenborough is on the television, explaining how bad climate change really is, there has to be a reckoning for all industries, including brewing As a company, we have to look at how energy intensive we are, how much water we use and how to conserve and re-use it, supply and delivery miles, and so on. We see making this commitment as a first step on that road.

Duncan Higgitt