“Go green, young man, go green!” might well be the best advice for the youth of our planet. Although I remember this adage from my grandmother and great aunts, as they grew their own vegetables and put up (as they called it) everything from peaches and jellies to corn and spaghetti sauce, I seem to have forgotten it in a world on fast-forward. Women stretched between the work-force and family life, kids in sports travel-teams, men living on the road and on their iPhones, and little time for anything else ... “fast” became the name-of-the-game: fast cars, fast internet connections, fast food, and foods that grow fast, pumped up with chemicals that accelerate the growing process. This was not … is not, good for us.
Obesity, cancers of all types, diabetes and heart failure are on the rise, as are the rate of carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. When will we wake up?
Fortunately, many brewers (both small and large) in the beer industry are answering the call of responsible environmentalism through the production of Organic Beer. Yes, Organic Beer is a hot potato in the debate forums, but let’s review the facts. In the long run, reversing the depletion of nutrients in the soil provides a beneficial element to the entire human race. Working on distribution is an easier fix then total annihilation of the natural elements that keep the life cycle in circulation.
Organic certification may get muddied through the political processes of any organized jurisdiction, but we cannot reach the pinnacle without an intellectual and common-sense collaboration of ideas and ideals.
For the moment, beers in the United States must be “certified organic” in order to be marketed as such. They must be approved by an independent certifier in order to bear the USDA certified logo. “Certified organic” focuses on soil health through the rotation of crops and the use of natural methods of weed and pest control. This does not fully prohibit the use of chemicals, but ensures that any chemical used contributes to the ecosystem.
Ingredients, supplies and the production processes used by brewers who wish to be labeled “organic” must comply with the rules for the National Organic Program, as set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and their counterparts in other countries.
Say what you want about the sub-standard flavor of Organic Beers. The list of Organic Beers is growing, and with expansion comes refinement, complexity and variety. Availability of distinctive, flavorful beers could rival any festival worldwide.
Don’t take my word for it. Do your own research.
Producers of Organic Beers are many. You might start with Brauerei Pinkus Müller (Pinkus-Muller Brewery) in Münster, Germany, who claims to be “the first brewery to brew with only organically grown barley malt and whole hop blossoms.” Pinkus-Muller is certified organic by ABCERT GmbH, an independent organic certifier, accredited by the USDA. Merchant du Vin imports three Pinkus-Muller beers to the USA: Organic Hefe Weizen, Organic Münster Alt, and Organic Ur Pils.
If you happen to be traveling to Germany, you will find their entire portfolio of Organic Beers: Pinkus Alt, Pinkus Special, Hefewiezen, Pinkus Pils, Detmeter Lagerbier, Pinkus Jubilate, Müllers Malz, Pinkus Honig Malz, and Pinkus Alkoholfrei.
Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, produced “the first certified organic beer labeled in the United States.” Lakefront Organic ESB (Extra Special Bitter) has been produced with 100% organic ingredients since 1996. Visionary Co-owner Russ Klisch currently imports organically grown hops from New Zealand, but has opened up a partnership with local growers for the cultivation of organic hops in Wisconsin. Lakefront has added Organic Honey Ale to its long list of quality beers.
Peak Organic Beer in Portland, Maine, USA produces a tasty assortment of Organic Beers, including Fresh Cut Pilsner; Hop Blanc White IPA; Summer Session Ale; Simcoe Spring Ale; Fall Summit Ale; Winter Session Ale, Hop Noir Black IPA; Oak Aged Mocha Stout; Organic IPA; Espresso Amber Ale; King Crimson; Pomegranate Wheat Ale; and the Local Series, a celebration of local tastes featuring Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York. A small sampling of flavors:
Wolavers Fine Organic Ales of Middlebury, Vermont produces brews certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers, the certification branch of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont and accredited by the USDA. Wolavers is one of the first certified organic brewers in the country, and is dedicated to producing beer that is healthy for the consumer, the eco-system, and the farming community. Wolavers produces: India Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Alta Gracia Coffee Porter, Wildflower Wheat, and seasonal Pumpkin Ale.
Stone Mill Pale Ale is Michelob Brewing Company’s Organic Beer, crafted using Metcalfe and Harrington barley malts from Canada, and is certified by the USDA and Quality Assurance International. It is brewed at RedHook Brewery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Although they started production using non-organic hops due to an escape clause that specified organic products be 99% of the beer’s total weight, Anheuser-Busch now produces this beer using Organic hops.
New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA – Mothership Wit – Released in May of 2007, this organic wheat beer is crafted with organic wheat from Golden Organics in Colorado, organic TILTH-certified malt from Briess, organic hops from New Zealand, New Belgium Brewing's self-cultured organic yeast, coriander and orange peel.
Deschutes Brewery, Inc, Bend, Oregon, USA - Green Lakes Organic Ale
Crannóg Ales, Sorrento, British Columbia, Canada – A draught only brewery that crafts all organic beers: Beyond the Pale Ale, Back Hand of God Stout, Red Branch Irish Ale, Hell’s Kitchen Potato Ale, and the seasonal Pooka Cherry Ale and Bansidhe Ale.
Brasserie Dupont, Hainaut, Wallonia, Belgium - Crafts the delicious Foret Saison, the first certified organic beer in Belgium, Biere de Miel Biologique, Mionette Biologique, Biolegere, and Blanche du Hainaut Biologique.
Bison Brewery, Berkeley, California, USA - The only organic brewer in the San Francisco Bay area, Bison crafts Organic Hop Cuvee West Coast Ale, Organic Chocolate Stout, Organic Honey Basil, Organic Saison de Wench, Organic Kermit the Hop, Organic Gingerbread Ale, The Band of Gypsies: The Tramp, and Barry White: Voice in a Barrel.
Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England - Certified organic by the USDA-accredited California Certified Organic Farmers, Samuel Smith’s produces Organic Lager, Organic Ale and Organic Cider. It is imported to the USA by Merchant du Vin.
The trend toward the production of Organic beers continues to grow. My abbreviated cross-section of organic beers highlights the exciting and expanding growth toward Organic Beers worldwide. This is not a fad that will disappear in the blink of an eye. The global brewing community recognizes the importance of going green, and has taken up the torch.