If you've been waiting for organics to add some bounce to the beers you drink, wait no longer. Many micro-breweries and even some of the major beer bottlers have jumped on the environmental bandwagon, giving you lots of eco-friendly choices in pubs, restaurants, and local liquor stores (which is where I recently found an organic beer infused with organic, fair trade coffee — I kid you not).
Organic beer is made the same way any beer is made, but under USDA standards at least 95 percent of its ingredients - usually barley and hops- must be grown without pesticides. Greenopia recently used a comprehensive set of criteria to rate the environmental impact of 15 of the largest breweries in the world. New Belgium Brewery, which sources its packaging locally and uses only organic ingredients, received the highest rating. Eel River was a close second, thanks not only to the organic ingredients they use in their beer but also the biogas they use to run their company.
Large breweries aside, local entrepreneurs are getting into this environmental act, too, bottling smaller batches of tasty, eco-focused lagers and ales. Next time you're sitting at the bar of the local brew pub, ask what they have on bottle or tap that Mother Nature herself would want to drink.
Will the organics trend continue? New Belgium's media relations director Bryan Simpson thinks so. "There is a greater appreciation among consumers for the way things are produced. Conscientious consumers care as much about how something is made-and by whom-as they are concerned with what is in the bottle, box or bag."
Here are a few other organic beers to look for:
Butte Creek Brewing Co. (Chico, California)
Peak Organic Brewing Co. (Burlington, Massachusetts)
Stone Mill Pale Ale (pictured, from Anheuser-Busch via Crooked Creek Brewing Co.)
Wild Hop Lager (Anheuser-Busch via Green Valley Brewing Co.)
Wolaver's Organic Ale (Middlebury, Vermont)
Do me a favor: Do a taste test on these or others you find, then report back here. I'd love to know what's got the "yum" factor and what should be left on the shelf.
And for you DIY-ers out there, this kit shows you how to brew your own organically at home. Let me know how that goes if you give it a try.