Why Drink Organic Ales?

Let’s talk about organic beers and breweries. When discussing organic beer, perhaps the most important question to start with is, why brew organic beer at all? The easy answer is, why not?

In many other product markets organic options flourish, so it seems natural—or maybe even organic—that the craft beer industry would eventually join in.

Levels of Organic Certification

But are all organic beers created equal? Organic certification has several different levels. The highest level of certification is “100 Percent Organic,” and is achieved when only organically produced ingredients and processing aids are used (i.e. no chemicals or pesticides).

Next is “Organic,” which are those products that contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. The remaining ingredients must be proven not to be available in organic form in the quantity and quality needed for the product.

The non-organic ingredients must be included in the USDA’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. At present, hops usually comprise the non-organic component of certified organic beers, because some varieties can be hard to obtain in organic form.

The fact that 5 percent or less of the ingredients in a certified organic beer are not organic hasn’t deterred most consumers from the products. This is normally due to the consumer being unaware of the 95 percent threshold, they feel that 95 percent organic is sufficient, or because they have determined that their organic beers of choice are made with organic hops.

However, some consumers, hops growers, and brewers feel differently. Some argue that consumers who choose organic beer are making a conscious decision about what they put into their bodies, and feel that any pesticides or chemicals are unacceptable. Some beer lovers also choose organic beer because organic farms help reduce pollution to soil and water.

The Logic of Buying Local

Purchasing from locally based vintners and brewers helps support small, family-owned businesses that make our communities diverse and unique. On most days, when visiting a local craft beer or wine producer, you’ll get to meet the brewmaster or head vintner and witness part of the fermentation process. Many small vineyards or brewing facilities host tastings and other events, too.

Buying local helps keep profits circulating in your community, instead of heading up the food-stream to the coffers of remote corporations.

In addition, even when they are not certified organic, small-scale brewing and wine-making is good for the environment, because:

•    In most cases, these “micros” are consumed locally, reducing the negative environmental effects caused by long-distance transportation.

•    Many microbreweries also use large, refillable containers called “growlers.” Customers pop ?into the brewpub facility and get a quick fill-up, thereby reducing unnecessary packaging-and they get a break on the price as well.

•    The glass bottles and cardboard packages conventionally used to store craft beers or local wines are easily recyclable in most areas.

Whether or not you drink organic beer,  we can all agree that organic is a noble direction. With the many different beer styles out there, organic beers can either be your sole style (or ‘soul’ style!), or just another type of beer you drink. Regardless, let’s give a big round of “O”-plause for the efforts of organic breweries and beers! Do you have any favorite organic breweries or U.S. organic beers?

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