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November 21, 2011
About 2 years ago, I did something that changed the way I ate. I saw the film Food, Inc. based on the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I had a strange feeling going into the theatre that it would change the way I live, just as seeing Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me in 2004 stopped me from ever eating fast food again. And I was right. Ever since seeing Food, Inc., I’ve attempted to make my diet 100% organic. It’s a near impossible task so I do the best I can, but it never really translated to my beer purchasing habits.
It’s somewhat inherent in the world of microbreweries to have a concerned focus on local, high-quality ingredients and environmental impact. Many breweries employ wind power or other green technologies within their breweries. Sierra Nevada recently created its first-ever fully sustainable brew Estate, which was made entirely with certified-organic ingredients grown at their facility in California.
But the craft beer world as a whole has yet to fully embrace the idea of organic beer. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few great breweries that pride themselves on their all-organic beers. Prime examples being Wolaver’s out of Middlebury,VT and Hopworks Urban Brewery from Portland, OR. Other examples include Bison Brewing, Pigsah, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and Peak Organic.
The question remains, why organic? It seems most obvious to me that it’s important to buy meat that has been treated properly, but do the same ideas apply to malt and hops? The short answer is yes. Essentially by buying things that are organic, you are supporting an ideology that is committed to seeing less chemicals being absorbed into the earth.
Granted, organic beers aren’t perfect. As it currently stands, a beer can be certified organic as long as 95% of the ingredients used to make it are organic. Because of this, many breweries will use non-organic hops in a certified organic beer. Seems a little strange doesn’t it? Others felt similarly. Thanks to legislative efforts, by 2013 all organic beers must contain organic hops. Let’s hope that doesn’t impact the smaller organic brewers too heavily.
Now even homebrew shops are selling organic beer ingredients. Take for example Rebel Brewer, an online homebrew store based out of Tennessee. Organic 2-row malt goes for $1.55 per pound versus $1.19 for regular 2-row, a pretty nominal difference. The only lingering question I have about conventional malt is: If one boils the sugars extracted from the grain before fermenting, is that enough to kill off any pesticides that were used in the growing process?
Either way, I expect the amount of organic beers produced to increase with great successes from large breweries like Sierra Nevada and smaller ones like Bison Brewing. And I will welcome that by buying and drinking all the organic beer I can get my hands on.
Here’s to a greener brew.