Is yeast vegan?

Is yeast vegan?

Written by Oliver Coningham on 6 February 2017 in Vegan Beer

After explaining to others why beer isn't vegan, some will often question the suitability of yeast. Is this single cell organism with the ability to reproduce a valid reason for vegans not to drink beer?

Yeast are eukaryotic microorganisms classified as part of the fungi kingdom. Neither animal or plant, yeast are a different concern altogether.

Brewers crudely describe the vital role that yeast plays in the brewing process with Nobby's Brewery clearly summarising it on Twitter: "Yeast is ALIVE, it had sex, ate sugar and peed alcohol in your beer." Just as long as the temperatures and conditions are right they will keep going until every last trace of fermentable sugar has been devoured.

As part of the fungus kingdom yeast sits neatly beside mushrooms. If you're happy to consume mushrooms with their meaty texture and earthy taste, yeast shouldn't be of concern for you. The same can be said for bread too where one of the fundamental ingredients is yeast.

One of the many things that separates animals from plants, besides a central nervous system, is the ability for self-propulsion. Plants rely on others to move themselves around. Either harnessing the elements to carry delicate seeds in the wind or for animals to eat them and excrete their seeds in a different location. Certain fruits and vegetables therefore want to be eaten as it's the only way that they are able to reproduce and spread.

Mushrooms, however, are an unusual group bordering the line between animals and plants. In BBC Four's revealing documentary The Magic of Mushrooms they showed just how incredible and unique they can be..

Soundtracked by suitably the suitably atmospheric and ethereal Sigur Ros, the infrared footage captured mushrooms projecting spores into the atmosphere to be carried by the wind. Liquid within the mushrooms would create pressure which would eventually increase and force the spores to be fired into the distance.

Things take a more sinister direction with the oyster mushroom. Due to a lack of nitrogen in their usual food source, they emit tiny lassos that secrete a powerful toxin. These catch nematode worms from nearby decaying logs and once lured, they are captured and drained of their rich nitrogen fluid.

Yeast take their place in this mythical kingdom, their ability to multiply and produce alcohol suitably matched by those they share it with. These differences may set them apart from plants, but should not be seen as a reason for vegans to avoid their consumption.

The Wild Beer Co Breakfast of Champignons

Photo credit: The Wild Beer Co

For those wanting to explore the relationship between beer, yeast and mushrooms, the ever innovative Wild Beer Co recently released Breakfast of Champignons; a beer brewed with Penny Bun mushrooms and cracked black pepper. Selected for their nutty, earthy flavour, the Penny Bun mushroom (also known as Porcini or Ceps) have never been conquered by mankind, in that so far we have been unable to cultivate them.

Lead photo credit: Shutterstock

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