Is anything better than an ice cold brew on a steaming hot day?
How about an ice cold brew that’s organic? Twenty years ago, you’d have been hard pressed to find even one organic ale to take a sip of. Today, thanks to strong consumer demand for all things organic and the tremendous growth in micro breweries, you should have your pick of any number of organic brews. Here’s a review of five that are worth trying. But first, let’s review what makes a beer organic.
What Makes a Beer Organic?
Brewers of organic beer need to meet the same standards as producers of organic foods. No toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers can be used to grow the ingredients, and the soil that they’re grown in needs to be free of toxic chemicals for at least three years. Genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) are not allowed.
Beer may be certified organic in two ways:
- 100 percent organic – to receive this certification, the beer must have been brewed from organically produced ingredients and nothing else.
- Organic – this means that the ingredients are 95 percent organically produced. The remaining ingredients can’t be available organically in the amount and quality needed.
Once they meet either of those two criteria, organic brewers can be as creative and imaginative as any of their competitors. They can add fruit; spices; some even add spruce tips, pumpkin, honey, coffee, and root vegetables. And we’re not just talking “beer,” here. Amber ale, pale ale, stout, porter, Belgian white, hard cider, lager…the list goes on and on, and so do your choices.
Why Drink Organic Beer?
First and foremost, drinking organic beer is a great way to support organic agriculture. Beer is basically made of grains, fruit or vegetables, and spices, plus yeast and water. When the agricultural ingredients are produced organically, they help keep groundwater clean, reduce toxic air pollution, and protect the workers who grow them. If you already buy organic meat, dairy and produce, why not shift to organic beer, too?
Since many organic beers are produced locally, buying them also helps support your local economy.
As for the price, organic beer costs around the same as many craft beers. They won’t break the bank but they will help you do good and have fun at the same time.
There are literally dozens of organic brews in the market today. You can find a long list of them on the website of the North American Organic Brewers Festival, or ask where you buy your regular beer. Our local liquor store is nothing special. But even it stocks several different brands of organic beer and ale.
Here are 5 I enjoy.
Wolaver’s Organic Brewery – This Middlebury, VT company was one of the first organic brewers in the market. As such, you can find many of their beers across the U.S. Year round, they bottle India Pale Ale, Brown Ale and Oatmeal Stout. In autumn, give their Pumpkin Ale a try. Their winter seasonal brew, Alta Gracia Coffee Porter, is made in cooperation with the Vermont Coffee Company using 100% certified fair trade, organic coffee from the Alta Gracia farm in the Dominican Republic.
Bison Brewing Co. – Bison’s Chocolate Stout is brewed with Peruvian cocoa. You’ve also got a choice of the Honey Basil beer or the Organic Hop Cuvee West Coast Ale. Among the seasonal ales from this Berkeley, CA-based company are Organic Ginger Bread and Saison de Wench Farmhouse Ale, infused with rose petals, hibiscus and lemongrass. Or try Kermit the Hop, a “double” IPA.
Lakefront Brewery Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery makes a classic, British-style ESB – extra special bitter with a citrusy flair. If barley wine-style ale is more to your liking, try “Chad,” the spicy brand concocted by, well, the brewery’s cellarman – whose name is Chad. The company also bottles an organic coffee stout called Fuel Café. They claim it goes well with roasted entrees, but I like the sound of pairing it with dessert, especially vanilla ice cream or some cannoli.
Peak Organic Brewing Company – This Maine-based brewer depends on local farms and artisan businesses for its supply of organic hops, malt from local grains, micro roasted coffees, organic oats, barley and chocolate, and locally produced maple syrup. Look for these ingredients in beers ranging from the Fresh Cut Pilsner to Hop Blanc, their White IPA, to the special ales they brew for spring, summer, fall, and winter. They also make a Hop Noir from organic black malt. “Enjoy with a night light,” they recommend!
Butte Creek Brewing – This Chico, CA company bottles a pale ale, porter, India pale ale and pilsner. But if you opt for its seasonal Spring Run Organic Pale Ale, you’ll not only quench your thirst; you’ll be helping to restore the habitat of the Chinook salmon, one of Butte’s favorite charities.
What’s your favorite organic beer? Please share!