Is Berlin the best city for vegans?

I love Berlin. When a friend recently asked if I wanted to tag along with his group of friends, for what would be my 6th visit, I didn’t need to be asked twice. I love how laid back the city is, how pleasant it is to cycle around on a summer’s day, how fun the nightlife is, and I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to being fascinated by its recent history. How crazy that in my lifetime (just about) the city was a completely different place, divided in two.

Bearpit karaoke at Mauerpark in Berlin

East side gallery of the Berlin Wall

I’m always excited to go back there, and I knew this time would be different. Not least because it would be the first time in four years that I’d not been with my girlfriend (she’s off adventuring in Seoul – hi Samantha!), but also because it would be my first vegan Berlin visit! I’d already heard a lot, and seen lots of Instagram posts, to know that it was a great place for vegans. In fact I’d already visited a vegan place last time I was there – Daluma – for some healthy eating, and had a tasty miso-shiitake rice bowl.

Vegan miso shiitake rice bowl from Daluma in Berlin

This time, over the course of my five-day trip, I managed to visit 15 (fifteen!) different places either vegan or serving vegan-friendly food, spanning cafes, restaurants, small shops and even a vegan supermarket! I’d done some research before going to know the places I wanted to go, and also to always have an option nearby for me and my vegan friend if the rest of the group wanted to eat somewhere we couldn’t.

As it turns out, we didn’t have to do this too often. A lot of places in Berlin are vegan-friendly, and have vegan options where you might not expect them to. One example was a place called Schiller Burger – not a vegan burger place by any means – which offered two vegan burgers, one with vegan cheese. We were unfortunate at our time of visiting that some of their equipment wasn’t working, and were too impatient to wait the 45 minutes they said it would take to fix! I also recall spotting a couple of chalkboard menus outside restaurants whilst walking around mentioning that vegan options were available. All-in-all it seemed more noticeable than in London.

Without further ado, here are the places I visited on my vegan Berlin trip…

 

Momos – Prenzlauer Berg – vegetarian, mostly vegan

I’d arrived in Berlin the night before the rest of the guys, and whilst waiting for them to get into the city from the airport I decided to pop into Momos .I love dumplings, and this place specialises in them – heaven! I particularly love pan-fried crispy dumplings, which you can choose here, or have them steamed.

Outside of Momos - veggie/vegan dumplings in Berlin

Interior of Momos - veggie/vegan dumplings in Berlin

Of the six choices of dumplings available, four of them are vegan – potato, cabbage and carrot; mushroom and potato; broccoli, shiitake and tofu; pumpkin and chickpea. Two of the three dips are vegan too – spicy tomato, and sesame soy.

Momos vegan dumplings on a plate

I went for the broccoli and pumpkin options, pan-fried of course, with the spicy tomato dip. They were a little on the plain side, but did the job as a decent not-too—unhealthy snack and I’d go again if I were in the area.

Inside of a Momos vegan dumpling

Momos (Fehrbelliner Straße 5) is open ­­Monday – Saturday, 12pm – 9pm

 

Street Food Thursday – Kreuzberg – serves meat, but vegan/vegan-friendly stalls

In the evening we headed out to Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg for Street Food Thursday. One of three remaining market halls of an original 14, ‘Market Hall 9’ hosts various different food markets throughout the week. I’d been to the weekend market before, so was excited to try Street Food Thursday.

Tofu Tussis stand at Street Food Thursdays, Kreuzberg Berlin

We didn’t know what to expect, so me and my friend had our fingers crossed for some vegan options (and preferably good ones!). As it turns out, we found three vegan-friendly stalls – two fully vegan and one pancake stalls with two vegan options – a sweet and a savoury. Unfortunately for us only one of these stalls had any food left by the time we got there, but on the other hand it’s great to know that the vegan stalls/options are popular enough to sell out 🙂

Where we managed to eat was at Tofu Tussis, a deli-style counter serving a number of tofu-based dishes. We ended up buying from this place twice: for round 1 I had tofu currywurst and a tofu steak, and for round 2 a nutty tofu curry and some tofu ‘meatballs’ with courgetti.

Tofu Tussis food selection

Selection of tofu at Tofu Tussis

Vegan tofu currywurst and marinated tofu steak

Tofu peanut curry from Tofu Tussis at Street Food Thursdays, Kreuzberg Berlin

All of them were good, and I’d definitely recommend stopping by. If you manage to get a vegan burger or pancake whilst you’re there, let me know how they are!

Vegan burger stand at Street Food Thursdays, Kreuzberg Berlin

Street Food Thursday (Eisenbahnstraße 42-43) runs on Thursdays only (obviously…) from 5pm – 10pm

 

Café Morgenrot – Prenzlauer Berg – vegetarian/vegan

Morgenrot was the only place I researched that specifically had vegan breakfast options. This is a leftie café in Prenzlauer Berg which does a great all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet (vegetarian but with many vegan options). It’s €9 and you can choose to pay between €6 – 12 if you either can’t afford the full price, or want to subsidise someone who can’t afford it. A nice touch.

Veggie-vegan breakfast buffet at Cafe Morgenrot Berlin

I piled my plate twice, and had a beetroot and apple juice on the side, and there were so many good flavours going on! Everything was really well-spiced, with particular highlights being the tofu scramble and the Mexican-style fried beans.

Vegan buffet selection from Cafe Morgenrot Berlin

I’d read that it’s best to get there bang on 11am when it opens, or risk it being too heaving to go, but we arrived a little after 11 and it was busy, but not too bad. Having said that we went on a Friday, so I’d expect this advice to be pretty useful at a weekend…

 Exterior of Cafe Morgenrot Berlin

The Café Morgenrot breakfast buffet (Kastanienallee 85) runs Friday – Sunday, 11am – 3pm

 

Vego Foodworld – Prenzlauer Berg – vegan

So after the unfortunate equipment malfunction at Schiller Burger, my friend and I headed up to Vego Foodworld, which I’d marked down as ‘vegan junk food’. If you recognise the ‘Vego’ name, yes, it is the same Vego who make the chocolate bars!

Vego Foodworld exterior - vegan fast food Berlin

When we first saw the menu, we were initially confused by there being ‘veggie burger’ and ‘bacon cheese burger’, along with some such as ‘tofu burger’. We had to double check that the place was actually vegan! It is, and get this – THEY HAVE 30 DIFFERENT BURGERS. Add that to the vegan nuggets, ‘calamari’, currywurst and pizzas, and you have a serious choice of vegan junk food to pick from. It actually felt like too much choice – I’ve really got used to having limited choice on a menu nowadays!

We both plumped for the bacon cheese burger, which was pretty decent. The ‘bacon’ they used was better than a lot I’ve had before, and the fries were satisfying.

Vegan 'bacon cheeseburger' from Vego Foodworld Berlin

After a Club Mate for an energy boost, we went to Prater beer garden for a few Weissbiers before heading to the impressive Olympic Stadium to watch Hertha Berlin play. Their performance was less impressive, and it preceded a failed attempt to get into Berghain. Two hours of queuing, but at least I can say I finally tried! 🙂

Vego Foodworld (Lychener Str. 63)  is open pretty much 24/7 – all day every day – aside from a 1hr close between 11pm and midnight – crazy!

 

Yellow Sunshine Burger – Kreuzberg – vegetarian, mostly vegan

Having decided that one burger wasn’t enough, we also checked out Yellow Sunshine Burger the following day. Similarly to Vego Foodworld there was a lot of choice, with 18 different vegan burgers (measly!), currywurst, nuggets, kebabs and so on.

Exterior of Yellow Sunshine Burger, Kreuzberg Berlin

Wanting a bit of variety (and keen for some currywurst) we decided to be greedy and both get a burger, with seitan-currywurst and fries on the side (with a beer to wash it all down of course).

Having had a soy-based burger at Vego the day before, I went for the seitan cheeseburger here. It was good, and there is a definite ‘meatiness’ advantage to seitan over soy, but I personally preferred the soy version. The seitan-based currywurst was good though, and gave a nice bit of variety.

Vegan seitan cheeseburger and seitan currywurst from Yellow Sunshine Burger

Yellow Sunshine Burger (Wiener Straße 19) is open 7 days a week, with slightly different close times at weekends and during winter. It always opens at midday, and the earliest it will close is 11pm.

 

Roamers – Neukölln – serves meat, vegan options on request

Next up was a trip out for breakfast, with one of our group suggesting a place they’d been on their last trip to Berlin – Roamers. This place was a really cute (if majorly cramped) café. Reassuringly popular, we waited around on their outside table for half an hour or so with a lemon tea.

Waiting outside at Roamers Cafe Berlin

Credit: Oli Dudley

Interior of Roamers cafe Berlin

Credit: Oli Dudley

The standard menu has no specifically-vegan options, but the avocado on toast can be made vegan on request, by switching out the cream cheese for hummus (why wouldn’t you want to do this anyway, hummus is amazing!).

Interior of Roamers cafe Berlin

Preparing to be disappointed by this one uninspired vegan option, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The flavours were amazing, and the sesame/poppy seed and coriander garnish made the whole thing just that bit more exciting. I loved this breakfast so much I recreated it pretty soon after getting back to London.

I also had a banana, oat and camomile smoothie on the side, which was good but completely unforgettable compared to the food! My only complaint is that there just wasn’t enough of it.

Friends at Roamer's Berlin

Roamers (Pannierstrasse 64) is open Tuesday – Sunday, 9.30am – 7pm on weekdays, and 10am – 7pm at weekends.

 

Vöner – Friedrichshain – vegan

Lunch the following day was at Vöner, which does exactly what it seems – vegan doner kebab! If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that I’ve tried a vegan kebab at Vegan Cross before, but was a little disappointed about the doner-to-veg ratio, meaning I couldn’t really taste the flavours of the ‘meat’.

Exterior of Voner - vegan doner kebab in Berlin

At Vöner this was much better, and the doner ‘meat’ was tasty. What’s exciting about this place as well, is that the doner is cooked on one of the classic rotisserie kebab grills. The kebab either comes in pitta, on a plate or in a durum wrap (as I had it) and there are three different sauces to choose from including a tahini-garlic one.

Voner vegan doner kebab

Vegan doner kebab grill at Voner

Alongside that they offer burgers and currywurst. Their fries also looked amazing, but I wasn’t hungry enough for a portion of those. They were also (reassuringly?) expensive, starting at €3.50…

Voner (Boxhagenerstr. 56) is open 11.30am – 11pm weekdays, and 1.30pm – 11pm at weekends.

Soy – Mitte – vegan

My trip to Soy was an interesting one. I was staying on in Berlin an extra day, partly because the flights were a lot cheaper than getting the same flight as the other guys, but partly because I wanted to do some solo exploring and had a place I could stay. Unfortunately that evening, just before the other guys were leaving, our hostel was giving out free pitchers of beer on the roof terrace! After sinking five or so between us in the space of an hour, the others left for their flight and I headed off to Soy…completely smashed.

Guys drinking at Wombats Hostel Berlin

Credit: Oli Dudley

That it was the best food I’d eaten in Berlin so far is I think a testament to how good the food was, rather than my drunken state. I tried to order a soup, a main and a side, only to be told by the waitress that it would be too much food for one person. I trusted her and went for the soup and the main, only to order the side from her later on. She laughed.

Soy vegan asian restaurant in Berlin

Soy is a great mix of classy restaurant with affordable food, with my 3 courses coming in at just over €17. I started with ‘Canh Chua’, described on the menu as ‘sweet-sour soup, traditional with tofu, tomatoes, mushrooms, tamarind and fresh herbs’, followed by ‘Cari’ as a main (homemade curry with spicy red curry-coconut sauce, in a claypot with silken tofu, seitan and fresh vegetables). Both tasted great, and there was so much more on the menu that I wanted to try. I then ordered the ‘Banh Bao’, a ‘steamed veggie bun filled with vegetables, various beans and mushrooms’. This was a little disappointing in comparison, as the spicy and sour flavours of the other dishes were a lot stronger.

Spicy vegan soup from Soy Berlin

Vegan curry from Soy Berlin

Vegan asian bun from Soy berlin

Soy would definitely be on my ‘go again’ list for next time.

Soy (Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 30) is open 12pm – 11pm weekdays, and 1pm – 11pm at weekends.

 

The Barn Roastery – Prenzlauer Berg – vegan cake available

The Barn is a coffee shop with a couple of spots in Berlin. The one on Schönhauser Allee is the where the roastery is, and is where we headed a few times on our trip. It’s a good coffee experience, albeit an expensive one (think €5 a glass), and they also have some cakes and sandwiches available (though no vegan sandwiches, as far as I remember).

I couldn’t resist the vegan carrot cake they had available, so bought one and took it with me to Teufelsberg the next day. This is a hilly spot in Grunewald, West Berlin which has an old listening post atop it, which was built by the Americans to listen in on Soviet airwaves. The friend I was staying with told me that the hill is totally man-made, using debris from around Berlin post-WW2.

Vegan carrot cake from the barn roastery berlin

History aside, I was expecting something good from this small €3 carrot cake, and I wasn’t disappointed. There’s not much else to say – it was a carrot cake, and it was a tasty carrot cake 🙂

The Barn Roastery (Schönhauser Allee 8)  is open 8.30am – 6pm weekdays, and 10am – 6pm at weekends.

 

Veganz – Friedrichshain (and various others) – vegan

I was super excited to go here. Why? Because Veganz is a specialist vegan supermarket in Berlin! As far as I know there aren’t any in London, aside from the smaller grocery sections at Vegan Cross and Black Cat Café, so was really keen to see what Veganz had to offer.

Veganz - vegan supermarket in Berlin

The experience was akin to a trip to Whole Foods, but with everything vegan. Wandering around I was most excited by the fridge and freezer sections, with masses of variety in vegan meats and cheeses. Think of it as a regular supermarket trip, with a vegan equivalent for everything. It was a shame that most of the stuff I was excited about trying was freezer-based, so unfortunately couldn’t bring much home! There were loads of frozen vegan pizzas (can you get these anywhere in London?) and even products from Beyond Meat, which I thought was only available in the US.

Beyond beef at Veganz supermarket berlin

Tofurky frozen vegan pizzas from veganz berlin

I ended up with a small tub of mushroom pate, vegan gummy bears, some breaded ‘chicken’ fillets (which made for an excellent katsu curry), vegan pepper steaks, and vegan bratwurst.

Vegan food haul from veganz berlin

After a little research I’ve found that there are 3 branches of the supermarket in Berlin, a number across Germany and some elsewhere in Europe such as in Prague and Vienna. I’ve heard rumours that there should be a branch opening in London, but these reports are quite old so I’ve reached out to Veganz on Twitter to find out if this is happening. No word yet.

Veganz (Warschauer Str. 33)  is open Monday – Saturday 9am – 10pm.

 

The Bowl – Friedrichshain – vegan

The Bowl is a ‘clean eating’ café/restaurant, 100% plant-based, GF and sugar free, found in the same building as the Veganz supermarket at Warschauer Str. I found it similar in vibe to Daluma, where I had my healthy miso-shiitake rice bowl, but with a much wider choice. They serve breakfast bowls as well as a number of savoury bowls, smoothies and desserts. This place rivalled Soy for the prize of best food I’d eaten on my trip.

Interior of The Bowl vegan restaurant Berlin

Another interior shot of The Bowl vegan restaurant Berlin

Similarly to Soy, I had trouble deciding what I wanted! There were so many good options on the menu, but I eventually plumped for the ‘Macrobiotic Bowl’, with some pretty exciting (read: wanky?) ingredients – lemon quinoa, fried brussels sprouts with cashew cheese cream, tamari tempeh, miso bean hummus, pink kimchi, wakame cucumber salad, and mixed greens with a ‘superfood dressing’. I’m not a fan of cucumber but the rest of it sounded too good to pass up, particularly the brussels sprouts. I wasn’t disappointed – each set of flavours were really good and complemented each other well.

Vegan macrobiotic bowl from the bowl Berlin

The only potential negative was the price, at a shade under €13, but considering how tasty it was, and how expensive/difficult it would be to put together those ingredients at home, it was definitely worth it.

The Bowl (Warschauer Str. 33) is open Monday 12pm – 11.30pm, and Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 11.30pm.

 

Dr Pogo – Neukölln – vegan

Dr Pogo is a small vegan grocery store in Neukölln, selling a variety of things from books, pet food, to groceries, with a small café area too. I only popped in here quickly, but bought some vegan mac and cheese from Terra Vegane. I used half of that next to some vegan buffalo cauliflower wings I made (recipe).

It’s a similar place to Vegan Cross here in London, but a bit bigger and with more stock.

Exterior of Dr Pogo vegan shop Berlin

Another exterior shot of Dr Pogo vegan shop Berlin

Vegan books at Dr Pogo vegan shop Berlin

Groceries at Dr Pogo vegan shop Berlin

Dr Pogo (Karl-Marx-Platz 24) is open Monday – Tuesday & Thursday – Friday 9am – 8pm, Wednesday 12pm – 8pm, and Saturday 9am – 4pm.

 

Sfizy Veg – Neukölln – vegan

After I’d popped into Dr Pogo, I walked across to Sfizy Veg to start my incredibly greedy two-dinner evening. This is a vegan pizzeria in Neukölln, with an interesting/odd décor. It felt a bit like a dark, cluttered lounge, with various bookcases and pictures hung on a dark back wall.

Sfizy veg interior

Sfizy veg Berlin exterior

Focusing on the food here though; the pizza I had was good. After having disappointing fake-meat on a pizza at Fed by Water in Dalston before, I’d said to myself that I’d try to order more ‘natural’ veggie pizzas in future. That went out the window here, after I was swayed to have my old pre-vegan favourite, Diavola, complete with vegan salami.

The vegan salami here was far better than that I’d had before, and the pizza was good. Something I’ve noticed with vegan cheeses on pizza is that they feel quite ‘heavy’, and you definitely feel full from them by the end of the pizza. This was the case with Sfizy Veg too, and the only place I’ve had a vegan pizza so far where the cheese felt ‘normal’ is at Wedge Issue in Farringdon, which I’d highly recommend. Regardless, this was a good vegan pizza.

Diavola vegan pizza from Sfizy Veg Berlin

The Sfizy Veg menu is big, with almost 40 pizzas available, with odd choices such as a ‘Tikka Masala pizza’. What’s more there are ‘pizza burgers’ and ‘pizza wraps’, as well as pasta and other dishes. It feels like the menu might be far too big for it all to be good, but I’d be interested to hear if anyone’s tried any of these weirder options.

Sfizy Veg (Treptower Straße 95) is open Monday 5pm – 11pm, and Thursday – Sunday 5pm – 11pm.

Neta – Prenzlauer Berg – serves meat, vegan option available

Part two of dinner for my last evening in Berlin was a trip to Neta. I’d been trying to cram in as much vegan food as possible on this final day, and didn’t leave much time to have the pizza at Sfizy Veg before heading straight to Neta to eat with my friend! Somehow I had enough room in my stomach to manage it though.

Neta serves meat, but as I quickly found out after turning vegan, Mexican food is great for vegans. Unfortunately though, the vegan option here was pretty disappointing. They offer sweet potato as the vegan filling, which I just didn’t find as tasty or as satisfying as the usual bean option you’d find in most other Mexican restaurants.

Vegan tacos from Neta in Berlin

The tacos I got looked really cool, coming in three separate blue, red and plain taco wraps, but these were quite spongy in texture and not very satisfying. I also couldn’t really taste the mango-habanero sauce, so all in all it was quite a poor experience food-wise, which was a shame as I’d done pretty darn well for most of the trip. Their margaritas were very good however!

Neta (Weinbergsweg 5) is open Sunday – Thursday 12pm – 10pm, and Friday – Saturday 12pm – 12am.

 

Congratulations if you made it this far!

Phew! That’s it, pretty much! I must however give a shout out to the Luxa kebab shop (Torstraße 56), around the corner from the hostel we stayed in, which did the most amazing falafel wrap. We each had about three of these in the four days we were all there together, and their chili sauce was probably the best I’ve ever tasted!

I can’t wait to go back to Berlin next time and try out some of the other places I had listed. I just didn’t physically have the time, money, or stomach space to go to! These included:

Prenzlauer Berg

  • Fast Rabbit (Prenzlauer Berg) – wraps – Eberswalder Strasse 1
  • Chaos Theorie – café and cocktail bar – Lychener Strasse 4
  • The Jivamukti Canteen – vegan café – Brunnenstr. 29
  • Cat Tuong – vietnamese – Kastanienallee 89

Mitte

  • Kopps – for their weekend buffet – Linienstrasse 94
  • Samadhi – veggie Indian “98% vegan” – Wilhelmstraße 77

Neukölln

  • Let it Be – mixture of things inc. burgers – Treptowerstr. 90
  • Vux – mixture (seitan sausage with smoky-habanero-mango-sauce…enough said) – Wipperstrasse 14

Kreuzberg

  • Rootz – various inc. bagels, burgers and sandwiches – Skalitzer Strasse 75
  • Viasko – mixture – Erkelenzdamm 49
  • Chaparro – Mexican – Wiener Straße 14a
  • Eissalon Tanne B – ice cream – Eisenbahnstraße 48
  • Café V – Lausitzer Platz 12

Friedrichshain

  • Gourka Pakora – South Indian – Krossener Strasse 16
  • Laauma – café that does a ‘meatball’ sandwich! – Sonntagstraße 26
  • OhLaLa – desserts – Mainzer Straße 18
  • Zeus Pizza – Boxhagener Straße 29-30
  • Chay Village – Asian – Niederbarnimstraße 10

Charlottenburg

  • Vaust – traditional German – Pestalozzistraße 8

 

And now also ‘The Dandy Diner’, a burger place in Neukölln (Karl-Marx-Straße 9), which opened shortly after we left Berlin. It seems like it’s going to be hugely popular, what with it causing the police to show up to disperse crowds on its opening night!

Finally, I’d love to hear if you guys have any Berlin vegan favourites that you’d like to share. Please comment 🙂

Group in front of the Brandenburg Gate

Credit: Oli Dudley

'Prost!' - Cheersing with beers in Tiergarten

Credit: Oli Dudley

Guys watching Hertha Berlin

Credit: Tom Miller

New vegan options at Pret for April 2016!

Pret's campaign logo for the Not Just For Veggies

I started working in Farringdon several months ago and have become more reliant on Pret than when I used to work in Camden. For some months Pret had frustratingly few vegan options, and would often remove the only vegan options they had.

When I started buying from them more frequently, in terms of non-salad lunch options they had their stalwart super greens and reds sandwich (a good sandwich, but not something you want to eat all the time), a great artichoke and red olive tapenade baguette (this disappeared quickly), and a cauliflower and sweet potato curry quinoa pot (this was really nice, but they also pulled it).

Cauliflower and sweet potato curry quinoa pot - a vegan option no longer available at Pret

More recently they introduced a range of vegan soups, but these weren’t something that interested me, being relatively pricey for the very small amount of nutrition you get from them. Most of the time I go into Pret is post-gym, and I need something more substantial. They also brought in a Mexican-style avocado/beanie flatbread recently, but it wasn’t very tasty.

Now, after the addition of a much tastier avocado and chipotle chickpeas wrap in recent weeks, they introduced a number of new vegan options all at once! Part of their #NotJustForVeggies campaign, they aim to create veggie/vegan food that’s so tasty that it isn’t just for veggies/vegans to enjoy! I’m also reading that for the whole of June, one Pret store in Soho will be completely veggie, in order to come up with loads of new ideas.

Avocado and Chipotle Chickpeas Wrap - a vegan option at Pret

 

Some of the new range that I spotted…

Chana Chana Flatbread

Chana chana flatbread - a vegan option at Pret

Mushroom and Avocado Sushi Salad

Mushroom and avocado sushi salad - a vegan option at Pret

Red Tapenade and Avo Superbowl

Red tapenade & avo superbowl - a vegan option at Pret

Looking forward to trying some of these soon, particularly the Chana Chana flatbread. Even if they’re not great, I know the avocado and chipotle chickpeas wrap is!

My vegan journey – 5½ months on

Vegan sign from Street Food Thursdays in Berlin

Dear me, time does fly by. I can’t believe it’s been a couple of months since I last posted! In that time my girlfriend has jetted off to South Korea for a year to teach English, and after 4 years living just with her I’m now living with a friend, which is novel! I’ve moved from Archway, London (goodbye Loving Hut) over to Hackney, so am excited to try out all the new vegan places around me here. I’ve already been to nearby Bodega 50, which serves vegan sandwiches and toasties, and am eyeing up a trip to Andu – a vegan Ethiopian restaurant on Kingsland Road.

Turmeric sauerkraut, avocado and vegan mayo sandwich from Bodega 50 in Hackney

Turmeric sauerkraut, avocado and vegan mayo sandwich from Bodega 50

So the title of the blog is a little misleading, as 5½ months ago is when I decided that I was going to make a change, and the last time I ate meat. Since then, I was vegetarian for a short time, replacing meat with substitutes like Quorn. As I learnt more about how horrible the dairy and egg industries are, I started to cut these out too (most Quorn products contain egg, although fingers crossed that will be changing). I quickly realised that I had to try to be vegan, if I truly cared about animals.

I’ve now been fully vegan for close to 3 months, having finally finished off the ludicrously large bag of whey protein I had from before, as well as some fish oil capsules. I’ve since been trying out soy protein powder instead but it’s so gross. I’ll probably write something separate about different vegan protein powders when I find one I like, but for now I’d advise avoiding soy protein. It mixes up super thick, and is far harder to stomach than whey. It makes me gag.

Vegan soy protein powder mixed very thickly

Many people ask me how it’s going as a vegan, and my first response is always “it’s been far easier than I thought it’d be”. It really has been. It’s also a good way to get people to think about the possibility of it for themselves. If I led with “yeah it’s good but I’ve missed this and that and wanted to eat that thing but can’t”, they’re definitely not going to want to try it, thinking of veganism as sacrificing their favourite foods. Whilst I have missed certain things sometimes, it’s definitely been a positive change overall. For a while I missed burgers, and sometimes the smell of the grills on Kingsland Road is tempting, but never enough to make me forget why I turned vegan. Also the more I’ve watched and learned along the way means I’ve wanted these things less and less. The bigger annoyance is just the number of products which are non-vegan and the occasional difficulty in getting hold of something good to eat conveniently.

Vegan wrap from Pret - Avocado & Chipotle Chickpeas

After some initial difficulty planning new meals or variations on old ones, and getting out of the bad habit of feeling like I ‘need’ some sort of animal ‘product’ with every meal, I’ve eaten a wide variety of things, and tried plenty of new ones too. I’ve been active on the Instagram profile for this blog, and it’s nice to scroll back through my feed to see just how any different things I have eaten. It’s also what I’ll use to show people if they’re ever interested to know just what I eat as a vegan, to show them that they could do it themselves! I told my vegetarian friend, who wants to go vegan, to take a look at it for ideas 🙂

I starting writing this post almost a couple of months ago before I moved, but things have been too crazy since then to really settle back into it. The friend I just mentioned is now vegan, and another friend I met at work has also started trying it recently too, which is great! If either of you guys are reading this – nice one, I’m proud of you!

I’ve also been asked a few times if I feel any healthier since turning vegan, and despite what I expected, and what I’ve heard from other vegans, I honestly can’t say I’ve noticed a difference. This has been a bit disappointing as I was expecting to feel amazing and much more energetic, however looking through my Instagram account you can probably see why not! I’ve swapped a lot of the old junk for exciting new vegan ‘junk’ (although even this is far healthier). Drinking probably doesn’t help either! Having said that, I stopped calorie counting when I turned vegan, as I just wanted to try new and exciting foods rather than having to worry about hitting a certain number of calories for gym, and I have lost a couple of kilos in the past few months. I’ve lost a little strength too, but can now build back up from what feels like a slightly leaner base.

Vegan junk food collage

Most importantly, I feel happy. Happy with the choice I’ve made and how it impacts animals, my long-term health, and the environment. Happy that I’m no longer contributing to an industry which does horrible, upsetting things to animals. Happy that my continued existence doesn’t come at the expense of others’. And happy that I no longer feel like a hypocrite animal lover!

So, that’s it for this time. I’m definitely going to try to blog more frequently, but do keep an eye on the @nowiseeclearer Instagram account for the most immediate updates. I went to Berlin last week and checked out a number of vegan places there, which I’ll report back on soon! And here’s to finding new vegan places and vegan options in Hackney! Let me know if you know of any good places for me to try 🙂

Beers at the Berlin Olympic Stadium

How does a vegan deal with a hangover? With a vegan fry up at Black Cat Café…

Vegan breakfast fry up at Black Cat Cafe Hackney

I’ve found that one of the most difficult times to be a vegan is on a hangover. The desperate desire for salty, greasy food after a night out is something that was well-served by a traditional fry up in the past.

Still, nothing’s going to make me turn back on my decision to be vegan, so I’ve needed to seek alternatives. On the occasions where I’ve had to turn up to work hungover (post-leaving drinks or Christmas party for example – I’m not an alcoholic, honest) something like a breakfast baguette from Pret, or even a good pastry, hit the spot.

I’m still yet to find anything readily “grabbable” which can do the same job; my order from Pret for example is now dairy-free 5-grain porridge, topped with jam and trail mix. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but is certainly not as satisfying when hungover. Any suggestions here would be welcome!

Pret dairy free 5 grain porridge

At the weekend however, I have more time. So last weekend I decided to search for the “best vegan fry up in London” and found the Black Cat Café, amongst others. I’d heard good things about this place before, so despite my immediate hunger I decided to make the 45 minute journey there to try it out.

Hackney Central overground sign

Black Cat Cafe Hackney

The café was reassuringly busy, but I found a table and service was pretty quick. There’s no fixed menu, which in some ways is good because you know the food is going to fresh and exciting, and it’s all 100% vegan. They even had vegan pastries. I wasn’t in the mood for these at the time, but I definitely need to try some as I’ve not had a croissant since turning vegan.

Vegan pastries at Black Cat Cafe Hackney

I was there solely for the fry up (consisting of vegan sausage & bacon, tofu scramble, crispy potatoes, mushrooms, beans and either bread or pancakes), which is served until a pleasingly-late 4pm at weekends.

Vegan breakfast fry up at Black Cat Cafe - tofu scramble, beans, vegan bacon, vegan sausage, crispy potatoes, mushrooms & bread

It was worth the trip. Whilst I don’t think any vegan ‘bacon’ will ever replicate the real thing, this was the closest I have tried so far, and better than the Tofurky tempeh version. Somewhat surprisingly the baked beans were the best bit. Not because the rest wasn’t good, but because the beans were just really good. They were really rich and smoky flavoured, and perfect for dipping the bread into. I could eat them all day. The tofu scramble and mushrooms were both also tasty.

If there was one weak link, I’d say it was the potatoes. They weren’t bad, but a little plain. I also ordered an almond milk-based mango smoothie. It wasn’t particularly mango-ey – more similar to the taste of sweetened soy milk (which I’m not a fan of so put me off a bit), but they have plenty of other varieties to try.

Vegan milkshake at Black Cat Cafe Hackney - mango with almond milk

Overall I’d recommend a trip here if you’re hankering for a fry up, and even if not, there’s plenty of other food on the menu – they say they usually have “soup of the day, burgers, curry, savoury pancakes, etc” amongst others. They also sell vegan groceries for you to stock up on, as well as some clothing and books.

Black Cat Cafe Hackney

Has anyone tried any of the other food at Black Cat Café? Or does anyone have any other recommendations for good vegan fry ups in London?

#HOME – excellent Asian vegan food in Shoreditch

#HOME Vegan Restaurant Sign

After reading Fat Gay Vegan’s recommendation about newly-opened #HOME being the best vegan food in London, I had to check it out.

Boxpark - Approaching Home

Home vegan restaurant front

Drinks cabinet with lucky cat at #HOME vegan restaurant

Located in Boxpark, Shoreditch, #HOME is a completely vegan Asian fast-food place offering a wide variety of dishes from sweet n sour, to black bean, pad Thai, various curries and more.

Home vegan restaurant menu on the wall

Each is priced at a standard £8.50, or £10 with vegan spring rolls. Certainly not the cheapest lunch option around, but the food is definitely worth it!

Home vegan restaurant paper menu

Click to enlarge the menu

Most dishes can be customised with either veg, tofu or some sort of fake ‘meat’ as their basis (‘chickn’, ‘praun’ and ‘duk’ are some that feature on the menu – even some ‘vegan fish sauce’). I usually avoid meat substitutes now, having largely been disappointed with them so far, but couldn’t resist the temptation to try their ‘chickn and veg’ with my spicy black bean noodle dish. I wasn’t disappointed this time.

Home's spicy black bean noodles with vegan 'chicken'

There’s not too much to say, other than the food was really tasty. Freshly cooked, and not greasy, the portion was large and I left definitely wanting to try more of what #HOME offers pretty soon. I’ve got my eye on the pad Thai and jungle curry, amongst others.

What’s more, diagonally opposite #HOME you’ll find #COOKDAILY, the original vegan food place in Boxpark run by the same people. I’ve taken a look at the menu here and it’s more varied (think vegan bowls, breakfasts and smoothies), and somewhere I definitely want to try too.

So, I’m going to be making a fair few trips to Boxpark again in the coming months, it seems! Whilst I can’t yet vouch for the recommendation of #HOME having the best vegan food in London (I’ve not yet tried nearly enough places) it’s certainly very good.

 

OFF-TOPIC ALERT!!

On a side note, if you’ve read the about page for this blog, you’ll know it’s named after a line from grime artist JME. I just spotted the following article on the Boxpark website about a new grime documentary, featuring JME being interviewed in #COOKDAILY. One to check out.


*Rabbit hole*
Okay so I just got sucked into various tweets/Instagram posts/YouTube videos about various grime stars promoting/being vegan after I saw this great shot of Tempa T and JME in Cook Daily:
Grime artists Tempa T and JME at #COOKDAILY in Boxpark, Shoreditch

 

BoxPark @kingcookdaily 💯 COOK DAILY #VeganHype Come & Get Your Vegan Meals Here 😆😆😆

A video posted by TEEEEEMMMPPPZZZZ 🔓 (@tempa_t) on

 

 

And here’s JME and Tempa T in Vegan Cross, the vegan shop/food place where I tried a vegan kebab recently:

 

Who serves the best vegan burrito?

I was addicted to burritos before I became vegan, and I’m still addicted to them now. Whilst my order has changed from what it was before, it’s a testament to the excellent flavours of Mexican food that a burrito can be just as tasty without meat and dairy. I say can, because some options are better than others. I therefore decided to go on the entirely selfless mission of comparing a number of different high street burrito options, to find out which restaurant does the best vegan burrito. It wasn’t at all because I’m still addicted to burritos and wanted an excuse to eat loads of them… 🙂

My general order was a veggie burrito including rice, black beans, roasted veg, guacamole, a combination of hot and mild salsa, lettuce and a squeeze of lime when available. Hold the cheese and sour cream, and you’ve got yourself a vegan option. In my opinion the most important ingredients to get right in a vegan burrito, and which differentiate one chain’s from another, are the guacamole and the sauces.

 

#6 Benito’s Hat – £5.50

Vegan burrito from Benito's Hat

It was a tough call whether to place this one or Barburrito as most disappointing. The burrito was very poor – really dull and bland. Unlike many other burrito places which usually have peppers and onions as their roasted veg, Benito’s Hat’s veg mostly consisted of chunks of courgette, which didn’t make for a great texture. A nice touch was the option to add coriander and onion, but it didn’t seem to make a difference.

Instead of the usual black beans I chose refried beans, as I love these and they’re not available in many other burrito places. Unfortunately this didn’t save the Benito’s Hat burrito. I also wasn’t a fan of their hot sauces coming from a squeezy bottle rather than fresh from a tray, although I’m not sure if this makes much difference. Last but not least, there was no option to add a squeeze of lime to the burrito, which really helps the flavour in my opinion.

One redeeming feature of Benito’s Hat is their cookbook, which has a recipe for some really tasty paprika toasted sunflower seeds.

Paprika toasted sunflower seeds - vegan snack

 

#5 Barburrito – £6.30 (reg)

Vegan burrito from Barburrito

I’d been to Barburrito before, and remembered thinking that it was really poor, but decided to go again in order to test their vegan option and make a fair comparison to the other vegan burritos I was testing.

Barburrito wasn’t as bad as I remembered, but it really is nothing special. I noted a reaction of ‘meh’ to their burrito. Similarly to Benito’s Hat, it was quite bland, and in this instance tasted quite cheap, despite a higher-than-average price tag.

A nice additional touch compared to other places was the choice of adding mushrooms to the burrito, which I did, but I think what really let Barburrito down was the poor quality of its sauces and guac.

When I was there I won a free beer on a scratch card they were giving away with meals, but I don’t think even that will be enough to lure me back.

 

#4 Daddy Donkey – £5.95

Vegan burrito from Daddy Donkey

Okay so this one’s not widely available, with there only being one of these restaurants (on Leather Lane in Farringdon) but I thought I’d test it out anyway.

Daddy Donkey’s vegan burrito wasn’t a bad one. It started off very positive, with good solid flavours, but I found it quickly getting quite sickly sweet. I was also worried about the guacamole potentially containing dairy as it tasted quite creamy, but they cleared up for me on Twitter that it only contains avocado, onion, lime juice, tomato, coriander & jalapeño.

Overall this was a decent burrito, but nothing I’d recommend going out of the way for. I may have been overly put off by my fears about the guac, so it could be worth trying again, although I did almost have to shout at them to stop them putting cheese in the burrito!

 

#3 Chipotle – £6.50

Vegan burrito Chipotle

So Chipotle, the big name of the burrito world, only makes it to number 3 on my list!

Don’t get me wrong, the vegan burrito from Chipotle isn’t a bad one. I’d put it in the category of ‘solid and inoffensive’. It’s neither bad, nor exciting. It’s a hefty burrito, and you certainly get your money’s worth, but it’s lacking a little flavour. In this one I went for the option of brown rice (most other chains offer white coriander rice) and half black/half pinto beans. This is one of the places where there’s no choice to get a squeeze of lime, and I do wonder whether it suffers from it.

Overall a decent choice, but the most expensive of the bunch and not as good as the following two, in my opinion. The burrito was also fairly juicy, and leaked quite a bit!

 

#2 Chilango – £5.99

Vegan burrito from Chilango

The vegan burrito from Chilango is a solid option, similar way to Chipotle. Again it’s not a spectacular one, but it is tasty and a good burrito overall. It’s my go-to option, being the closest one to my office that I rate highly.

All the ingredients here are the standard ones I listed above, so rice, black beans, roasted peppers/onions, hot and mild salsa, guac, lettuce and a squeeze of lime.

 

I’d place the Chilango option a little higher than Chipotle, and it’s a little cheaper. It’s enjoyable but does lack a little something, especially when compared to Tortilla below. However, if you’re around a Chilango and there’s no Tortilla available, I’d definitely recommend one of these.

 

#1 Tortilla – £5 (med)

Vegan burrito from Tortilla

Now this is the one. The vegan burrito from Tortilla was the first one I had where I really didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything, by not having my old usual chicken burrito. The first burrito I had as a vegan was from Chilango, and I remember being a little disheartened that it didn’t taste quite as good as before. Now perhaps my tastes have adjusted or changed, but I know that the Tortilla one left no disappointment.

What I think sets Tortilla apart from the other restaurants is the quality of both its sauces, and its guacamole. These were the components I highlighted as being the difference makers between these burritos, and this is where Tortilla has got it right. The guac is tasty, presumably through use of enough chillies and lime, and the sauces sweet and hot enough to load the burrito with flavour, helped along by a squeeze of lime at the end.

I’d definitely recommend the Tortilla burrito above the others. The medium-size is big enough in my opinion, and just £5.

My first vegan Christmas dinner

This Christmas was the first that I have been vegan for, and it was complete success. On first thoughts it feels like a vegan Christmas dinner could be very different, or lacking, to a ‘conventional’ one – it’s all about the meat right? But, we found that it was pretty simple to make a great vegan Christmas dinner. Last year we had roast beef as our main, rather than the traditional turkey, but in all honesty that was probably my least favourite part of what was an excellent meal. What’s more, the number of people I’ve heard saying this year that “no one even likes the turkey anyway” is quite saddening – the fact that people are completely okay with an animal being slaughtered for their dinner, when they’d be just as happy without it.

So yeah, we started thinking about what we were going to have as our main a couple of months ago. After looking at a couple of recipe ideas, we just decided to create something of our own. Sam came up with the idea of having a pastry main – filled with roasted butternut squash and cranberry sauce, and that’s what we had. Most of the rest of a Christmas dinner is vegan anyway – if prepared with a little thought – aside from things like Yorkshire puddings and pigs in blankets. You can still have roast potatoes, all the veg (we had parsnips, carrots and sprouts), stuffing, vegetable gravy, and we even made some vegan cauliflower cheese.

We got our shopping in a couple of days before, picking up this batch of goodies:

Vegan Christmas dinner shopping

Sheese Dairy Free Smoked Cheese - Vegan Cheese

We used this cheese for our gourmet breakfast…of cheese, crackers, chutney, and…mimosas 🙂

Vegusto No-Moo Melty Vegan Cheese

We grated this cheese and melted it down to use in our cauliflower cheese. It was pretty addictive! Quite sweet, and slightly synthetic tasting, it was most comparable to the flavour of cheesy crisps like Wotsits/Cheetos, albeit a little milder. Sounds weird, but it was really tasty.

Linda McCartney Vegan Sausages

These were used as an addition to the meal, in place of something like pigs in blankets. They taste fairly similar to regular sausages, just a little drier.

Vegan bacon bits

These vegan bacon bits I received as a present from Sam, and we mixed them in with our Brussel Sprouts and chestnuts. They’re okay, but not really like bacon. I’ve yet to find anything which can replicate the taste, and I’m not sure I will.

Vegan christmas dinner - plating up

Here’s us plating up the final meal. You’ll see the vegan cauliflower cheese in the top left, plates of the roasted butternut squash and cranberry filo pastry, the Brussel Sprouts, chestnuts and vegan bacon bits mixed, carrots, vegan sausages and a bowl of roast potatoes and parsnips.

Vegan christmas dinner - the finished product

All in all the meal was a great success, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed with my first vegan Christmas dinner. We had a meat-eating friend of ours over for the day, and he said it was the best Christmas dinner he’d ever had – a glowing review!

P.S. New Year’s Resolution: buy a new phone with a far better camera…

Can you be vegan in McDonald’s? (Yes, but you don’t want to.)

McDonald's logo - I'm not lovin' it

A little while ago I’d been out for drinks with a couple of old friends, and, as is customary after having a few, was craving something to eat on the way home. This was just after I’d started being vegan, and I stumbled into the McDonald’s at Charing Cross, hoping that there would be something on the menu appropriate for me to eat.

 

For a place synonymous with its beef burgers, as it turns out, there are vegan options in McDonalds – a whole two of them! Well, really just one – the fries – but you can make a special request for mayo to be left out of their veggie burger.

 

I’ve found that since turning vegan I’ve had strong resolve in not breaking veganism and eating something I ‘shouldn’t’. I’d wondered how I might act when faced with making vegan choices when drunk, but thankfully this hasn’t been a problem. I’ve been tempted by the old, familiar options, but have also remembered why I chose to be vegan in the first place. It’s also been helped enormously by the tastiness of the falafel and hummus wrap from my local kebab shop, which has meant I’ve really not felt like I was missing out with my takeaway food. This was something I sometimes ordered even when I was a meat-eater, and the only change I’ve had to make to make it vegan is to hold off on the garlic sauce.

 

However that evening I was hungry for something to eat before I reached home, and the McDonald’s was in a very convenient location. I ordered my veggie burger (sans mayo) and fries, and sat down hopeful that they’d satisfy my craving in the way my previous McDonald’s orders would have.

 

Unfortunately they didn’t. The veggie burger was not at all exciting; it was plain and boring. The fries are the fries, but they’re really just a vehicle for sauce, with the burger as the main attraction. Overall it just didn’t feel like a familiar McDonald’s experience, or a tasty one. I may go back and order only fries in future if I’m desperate, but it looks like McDonald’s is a thing of the past for the new vegan me.

 

What vegan options do you go for after a night out, if any? Leave a comment and let me know!

Vegan Cross: Get your vegan junk food fix in London

Vegan Cross London shop front

My girlfriend recently told me about a place called Vegan Cross: a vegan shop in London that sells vegan-friendly clothing, vegan groceries and most interestingly: vegan takeaway fast food.

Vegan Cross London shop front

Vegan Cross London shop sign outside

Vegan Cross vegan groceries

Of course, becoming vegan I’ve been looking forward to eating more healthily than I did before, by cutting out a lot of the saturated fat associated with red meat and dairy. However, as a former meat eater, I was also worried about there being a lack of tasty junk foods for when I do want a fix!

Luckily Vegan Cross provides that. Their menu offers a wide selection of vegan alternatives to classic junk food including nachos, burgers, hot dogs, calzone and even currywurst! What I was most intrigued by though was their vegan döner kebab wrap.

Vegan doner kebab wrap

Being a greedy bastard, I decided to opt for their ‘supersize’ option, which as you can see, was pretty bloody massive.

Vegan doner kebab scale compared to my head

Unfortunately I found it a bit disappointing overall, just because the volume of veg really overwhelmed the döner ‘meat’. More of a big ol’ lettuce wrap. From what I could tell though, the döner tasted quite convincing!

Still, as I want to try pretty much everything else on the menu, I’ll definitely be back! I’d also like to take a better look at the vegan groceries on offer, as well as picking up another bottle of Chari-Tea Mate, which I discovered a taste for when I was in Amsterdam. If you know Berlin well, you’ll also spot the recognisable bottles of Club Mate!

Bottles of Club Mate in stock at Vegan Cross

The other thing I love about their menu is that some of their food is supplied by two great places: Manna and Fed By Water. The former is an amazing vegan restaurant that I visited a few months ago just after my girlfriend had gone vegan (whilst I was still a meat eater) and the latter is an Italian place in Dalston that has a wide variety of vegan pizzas and other dishes. I’m hoping to write more about both these places sometime soon.

Adnams beer isn’t vegan, but it might be by 2017…

Adnams beer from the coast poster

Since turning vegan I’ve had to start thinking about the beers I drink. This may sound surprising, if you’re unaware of what makes some beers not vegan-friendly – it’s just water, barley, malt, hops and some yeast, right?

 

That is true, but for those of you who don’t know: some beers have a substance called isinglass added to them after fermentation, with the purpose of removing yeast to stop the beer appearing cloudy. Isinglass is a protein which comes from the swim bladders of fish, hence why beer filtered using this method is not vegan. None of the isinglass should remain in the beer, but an animal product is still used in the process.

 

I was browsing the excellent resource barnivore.com the other day, to find out if my favourite beers are vegan (and also whether the office beers – Heineken and Tiger – are vegan; they are!). Most of my favourites are vegan friendly, thankfully, but I now know that I have to avoid my go-to standard lager, Kronenbourg.

 

What I was disappointed to find out is that one of my favourite breweries, Adnams, doesn’t produce vegan friendly beer. Hoping that they might one day consider making their beer vegan friendly, as Guinness have announced they are going to do, I got in touch via email.

 

I received a very helpful and insightful response from Head Brewer, Fergus Fitzgerald, who has kindly allowed me to reproduce his comments here.

 

Firstly he explains how most cask beer (those are the ones you usually associate with being poured in a pub via a hand pump) isn’t vegan friendly:

 

“Virtually all cask beer in the UK uses isinglass; there are one or two exceptions like Moor brewery. They hold their beer for 3 or 4 weeks longer in tank, and most of the yeast will drop out with enough time and at colder temperatures. Even then their beer isn’t totally bright but they make a point of telling customers that it will be slightly cloudy. This is not an option for us as we would need four times the number of fermentation tanks to accommodate this, there is also no guarantee it would make the beer bright enough for our customers, many of whom still associate cloudy beer with poor quality.”

 

He then talks about an exciting possibility for the future, whereby a plant-based fining might be available, instead of using isinglass:

“There is some work going on with developing a plant-based fining, one of particular interest is derived from hops, however it is not in commercial trials yet, only lab trials so it’s early days. We have expressed strong interest in it and hope to be one of the first brewers to trial it if it proves successful on the lab scale.”

 

He also explains how Adnams don’t add isinglass to their non-cask beers, but their packagers do:

“For bottled/kegged/canned beer we don’t usually add any isinglass here, unless the yeast count is very high which can happen with some yeast strains. However isinglass is almost always used by the packager. We don’t packaged the keg, bottle or canned beer here. There are other methods that can be used but none of our packagers can routinely remove the yeast without isinglass. The beer is filtered but the bulk of the yeast needs to be removed before filtration as it quickly blinds the filter.

Other breweries may hold the beer longer and centrifuge out the yeast however this involves more investment in terms of tanks and equipment. It also typically results in higher losses especially for breweries that are handling multiple beer types. The contract packagers in the UK all tend to use isinglass.

Guinness are installing a new processing system, to come on line at the end of 2016 that will centrifuge out the yeast and negate the need to add isinglass.”

 

Not all hope is lost however, as Adnams will be releasing two vegan-friendly beers very soon:

 

“Our packager has agreed to process two beer we brew for M&S without finings for us, M&S Jester (IPA) and M&S Christmas ale (ruby coloured ale). They agreed to this as they are small volume and infrequent so will have a small impact on their capacity and efficiency, and we agree to the higher losses. They are not currently prepared to do this with the main beers as it would dramatically reduce their capacity.

There are instances where a brewery may be able to get away without using isinglass but it is sometimes needed to process a beer if the amount of yeast varies, so one batch of beer may not need it but the next one does, in these cases the brewery cant declare the beer is vegetarian/vegan as they want to have the facility to use it if it is needed.

I think we have a similar issue with Wine, where often the winemaker will say a wine is vegetarian but they won’t certify it as they want the option of using those finings if they need to.”

 

Most excitingly, Fergus revealed that Adnams hope to have their non-cask beer vegan friendly during 2017, just over a year away:

 

“We are in the midst of a new project in Southwold. When we are finished, in the later stages of 2017, we will be centrifuging and filtering beer on site, depending on capacity, and it is our intention to keg all our beer on site from Spring 2017. As such we hope to be able to do this without isinglass.

 

We may also be able to do this for some canned/bottled beer so that we send it to the packager already filtered and so it wouldn’t need any Isinglass. It’s too early to say how much of our bottled and canned beer we will be able to filter on site.

 

I hope this answers your question. In summary we will be making our keg beer vegan in 2017 and our cask beer is dependent on finding a suitable alternative [the plant-based finings he mentioned].”

His answer did throw up a few more questions, which he also answered for me:

 

1) Is each beer in your range either keg or cask, or does each variety get produced for both? Is one or the other more commonly found in the pubs you supply?

“Some beers are brewed for both. In a pub it’s mostly cask although our keg volume is growing.”

 

2) Is centrifuge the main alternative to using isinglass for removing yeast?

“Yes, often combined with extended storage of the beer at cold temperatures.”

 

3) I’ve been looking at quite a few beers I like on barnivore.com, and most appear to be vegan. Would this be because they’re bottling themselves and using centrifuge, or that their packagers use centrifuge? I know the reason for some smaller microbreweries will just be because they leave the yeast in and let it settle in the bottle. Not relevant to ale, but out of interest, how about big commercial lager brewers? Are they using centrifuge?

“Yes, it depends on how the brewery has grown. As Adnams has mostly grown up as a cask beer brewery that is how the equipment has developed. Most contract bottlers also tend to have grown up as cask beer producers that have expanded into bottle. However it is quite common for lager breweries and bigger breweries to be able to centrifuge the yeast out, it’s a significant investment and historically the equipment was restricted to bigger breweries due to its size, this has changed now so it is more accessible to smaller breweries.”

 

4) Do most packagers use isinglass, or are there alternative packagers you could use instead who don’t use it? Presuming the only alternative is centrifuge, I see that it’d be a cost-based decision.

“If they use finings to remove the yeasts then it will be isinglass, it is possible to filter out yeast without a centrifuge first but it is not practical for most breweries due to the size and the relative uncertainty in how much yeasts might be in the beer. I would say most contract packagers use isinglass or need to be able to use it, however the larger lager breweries or breweries that also produce a lot of contract lager will almost certainly have a centrifuge.”

 

5) I’ve seen it written that bottled Spindrift is suitable for vegans. Is that correct?

“No, we used to say that it was but then the packager told us that they couldn’t guarantee that it would remain so as they were having issues with their filtration and needed the option of being able to use it. As you can imagine we weren’t comfortable saying ‘it might be suitable’.”

So there you have it. Whilst there are plenty of vegan beers out there to drink in the meantime, cask ales are generally to be avoided, and Adnams hope to have their keg and bottle range vegan by 2017.

 

Thanks for reading 🙂