When Freedom Brewery started brewing vegan beer 25 years ago they were ahead of the trend, but even back then they knew it was the right thing to do. We catch up with them to find out more...
When and why did you launch Freedom Brewery?
Freedom Brewery started in 1995 in Fulham, London as one of the first craft lager specialists.
We weren’t inspired by the lager choices available at the time and thought something needed to be done to make the beers that we longed for. Beers that are beautifully refreshing, brewed sustainably and oh so delicious.
Freedom brewery was ahead of the trend 25 years ago in deciding to brew vegan beer – how did you know it would be popular?
It was quite a simple decision for us to brew our beers to be vegan.
Because we have a minimum 4-week maturation time, we didn’t need to use animal products to filter our beer. As the flavour develops in the tanks, the remaining sediment separates and requires less processing, helping preserve the flavour.
We didn’t expect the popularity of vegan beers to grow, but we knew it was something important for us to do to make us more sustainable.
For anyone who doesn’t know, can you explain why not all beers are vegan?
For beers to have that crystal clear golden appearance we come to expect, they require filtering, otherwise they’re naturally cloudy and likely to contain some sediment.
A lot of breweries filter their beer through isinglass (dried fish bladders), which accelerates the fining and clarification process.
Because we mature our beer for longer and use less intensive vegan-friendly filtration, we don’t need to use isinglass.
If a small non-vegan brewery wanted to change to a vegan production method, would it be difficult/expensive to make the change?
We think it would be great if more breweries would adopt vegan-friendly methods.
The simplest way to offer a vegan-friendly beer is to produce an unfiltered/cloudy beer which can have some great characteristics.
Alternatively, breweries would need to invest in their filtering and processing to remove the need for isinglass to filter their beer.
It takes longer to produce a vegan-friendly beer that’s as crystal clear as beer drinkers expect. This can massively drive-up production time and costs. But in our eyes it’s certainly worth it.
Talk us through the basics of how Freedom Brewery’s beer comes to life…
The basics of brewing start by steeping malted barley in hot water to create a sugary liquid called wort.
This liquid is then infused with hops, which typically add the aromas and bitterness (or many other characteristics!). Once this has cooled it’s time for fermentation, which is when the yeast is added.
The yeast converts the sugars from the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
After this comes maturation, filtering, processing and bottling.
There are many more technical steps in this process and brewing beer is a fine blend of art and science that can take up anywhere from 3-8 weeks to produce.
You recycle all your waste water. Was this difficult to set up, and why was being sustainable as well as vegan so important to you?
Being a sustainable brewer is really important to us. We love our beers, but it can take up to 5 pints of water to make 1 pint of beer and that’s a lot of waste.
We wanted to carry on enjoying our beers without the big impact on the environment.
Rather than pump our water to a water treatment site, we let nature do the work for us. Through a series of reedbeds built into a hill next to the brewery, we naturally filter the water and return it to the environment, which in turn supports local farmland and wildlife.
There’s been a real resurgence in the interest for independent beers and artisan ales over the last few years – why do you think that is?
It has been amazing to see so many new breweries, bars and beers pop up in the last few years.
Drinkers have been more willing to experiment with the beers they go for and breweries have gotten braver and bolder with the flavours and styles they’re producing. There also seems to be more genuine interest in how the beers are made.
People are starting to care more about the process and consciously choosing drinks that are more friendly for the environment.
Why did Freedom Brewery decide to apply for the Vegan Trademark?
We wanted to draw attention to the different way we produce our beers with a well trusted symbol that our customers, suppliers and drinkers would recognise.
It’s something that we proudly feature on all our beer labels and try to make people aware that not all beers are vegan-friendly.
It’s a great talking point with our customers, especially those where being vegan-friendly plays a huge role in what they do. They’re able to have every confidence that our product, process and ingredients don’t use animal products.
What’s next for Freedom Brewery?
We have some ambitious plans for 2021 and we’re excited to get back into outlets to see our customers and enjoy some draught beer.
We’ll be heading to a few festivals and events this year, which we’re really excited about and have a few new beers brewing too!
Want to find out more about the ethical approach to this favourite drink? Read our conscious consumer’s guide to vegan beer