Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What’s the Deal with Organic Beer?

My green friends suggest that you should celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with an organic beer instead of beer tinted with green food coloring. 

Of course, being a craft beer connoisseur I must investigate this first hand.

You’re welcome.

Husband and I bought tickets to the Columbus Ale Fest, a craft beer tasting. Before Ale Fest I tasted one craft beer. Great Scot Organic Pale Ale from Caledonian Brewery. Husband is a pale ale guy while I favor dark stouts and porters. When we tried it our conclusion was that the Scot Organic Pale Ale was a good middle of the road tasting pale ale, it wasn’t anything spectacular. I expected something a little more in the taste department for something labeled organic.


Husband’s review? “It tastes like beer.”

The two notable things about Great Scot Organic Pale Ale is that it comes from Scotland, which is a lot more beer miles than even the Ohio Craft brews we enjoy (heck, more beer miles than the Budweiser brewed in my city and shipped to you.) and it’s vegan.

What is Vegan Beer?

I thought all beer is vegan other than a honey flavored ale, because beer is just water, malt, hops, barely, and yeast.

I talked to the head brewer from Elevator Brewing Company. He said that wasn’t the case. When filtering certain types of beer some breweries use isinglass or diatomaceous earth
which can contain animal products.  Some brewers don’t like the way it makes their brew taste or want to offer a vegan product and use a different method. That’s what makes vegan beer vegan.

Oh.

What is Organic Beer?


A certified organic beer must have 95% of its ingredients grown without chemical pesticides. Hops are excluded from the USDA Organic guidelines and only make up 5% of the ingredient mixture anyway.

Why are hops excluded from USDA Organic guidelines?


Organic hops are extremely difficult to grow because there are mildews and diseases that attack only hops and can quickly ruin a farmer’s unprotected hops crop. As of this writing, there aren’t any effective organic ways to fight these hops pests.

The most interesting part of our conversation is when the brewer told me that there are very few places to buy the grains made to make beer. All of the suppliers that grow organic varieties also grow them conventionally on another area of their farms.

Many craft breweries choose to use organic, sustainably grown, or vegan ingredients but choose not to apply for USDA Organic certification.  For example, Great Lakes Brewing Company sends its spent grain after brewing to feed local farm animals (a majority of breweries do too. Even the big guys.), composts all of the food waste from its restaurant, and most notably uses spent cooking oil to power delivery trucks and the Fatty Wagon  that shuttles locals to sporting events. Cool, eh?

Many sustainably run craft breweries do not want to pass the increased cost Organic certification requires on to their customers because they sell their product at a premium price as it is.

What about you? Do you drink organic beer?


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