Today's Dispatch has a brief about the Vegetarian Times article on the subject of beers that are vegetarian-friendly. I have discussed this issue in the past because of my previous life in the beverage industry. The culprit identified has roots in British cask ales--a fish swim bladder gelatin used as a fining agent at the end of the brewing process. In theory, the gelatin captures the spent yeast at the bottom of the barrel, and the clear ale is poured off the top. However, it is impossible to prevent isinglass from leeching back into the finished brew.
Fortunately for vegetarians, isinglass is rarely utilized outside of the United Kingdom. It is more expensive than its non-aquatic counterparts. The article gave a short list of brewers who are vegetarian-safe. There also was an article that explained the process in greater depth. I agree with the assertion that Belgian beer is safe because they seldom fine their beers. I also agree that German beer is safe if the brewers follow the traditional standards of the Reinheitsgebot, or the German Purity Law.
Many brewers, even in England, are vegetarian-friendly. Samuel Smith uses no animal products in its brewing process. However, some of the more popular European brews have failed the test. Guinness uses isinglass as a fining agent. If you ask somebody at these organizations, it should be pretty easy to figure out if gelatin-based fining agents are used in the brewing process. I doubt they are trying to sneak it past anybody. It's just another of those odd traditions.
You can also prevent consumption of animal-laden brews by drinking Belgian beers like Orval and Chimay, German beers by Pinkus Muller and Spaten as well as American craft beers like Dogfish Head and local fave Columbus Brewing. Or you can stick to swill from Budweiser. Whether you prefer quantity or quality, all of these are vegetarian-approved.