Growing up an Irish Catholic in New England--and certainly spending four years of college life in New Hampshire about an hour and a half outside Boston--St. Patrick’s Day was a big deal. And, it always included the ubiquitous green beer. Some slob handy with a keg tap would douse a mug o’ suds with green food coloring. The beer of choice was usually mass-manufactured (read: cheaper than dirt) and tasted not unlike rat urine in a cup.
(Please keep in mind, I’ve never tasted rat urine. I simply have an active imagination.)
Today’s handcrafted brewed beers are often green, minus the food coloring. Many of the brewers have taken the environment into consideration. Brewing is not just a funky job, but also a way of life. People who brew tend to be interested in their health as well as their surroundings.
According to an article dated June 24, 2009 from Wend Magazine online, a growing number of brewers have put sustainable practices in place. They recycle products and use organically grown ingredients. They use renewable energy in their manufacturing process and even try to find appropriate ways of eliminating the waste products after brewing. In general, some really great beers are green and it doesn’t take a food dye to make that happen.
“I think part of it is that you’re bringing people with a discerning palette into an industry that is very particular, which brings a mindset to production,” Jamie Emmerson, Brewmaster of Full Sail, recently named one of the 100 Best Green Companies to Work for in Oregon by Oregon Business magazine, was quoted as saying. “People who are focused on good quality are also focused on good quality of life.”
Good quality of life is what a lot of businesses want to portray. Take Peak Brewery in Maine. Founder and President Jon Cadoux says he skis, jogs, and surfs and enjoys the outdoors with family and friends. That zest for life and all things natural go into the beer. For Cadoux, what started out as homebrewing in the 1990s eventually grew into an organic beer business.
According to their web site, there is little difference in making organic beer as opposed to conventional beer. The difference is that almost all of its ingredients are grown without the use of chemicals and pesticides. The elimination of chemicals doesn’t translate to the cost, either. They say the cost of organic beer is about the same as other specialty or imported beers, hovering around the $8 range per pack.
“Peak Organic beer is made without toxic and persistent pesticides and chemical fertilizers. These substances can cause soil degradation and chemical runoff that contaminate water sources and the ecosystems they support,” said Cadoux, as quoted on the company’s web site. “Healthier soil grows tastier barley and hops. By supporting organic agriculture, we can make the most delicious beer possible and feel good about the positive environmental contribution we are making.”
Peak Brewery points out that there is a growing interest in organic beer. Sales are rising quickly, starting with about $9 million in 2003 and growing to $19 million by 2005 in overall sales according to the Organic Trade Association. In fact, the 2005 sales of organic beer mirrored that of organic coffee.
But even with those overall sales, organic beer is often hard to come by. “The problem with organic beers is the shelf life is minimal,” said Mark Abrahamson, owner of Mo’s Wine and Spirits in Fairfield. “Because there are no preservatives, it only lasts a couple of months. By the time it gets to us, it’s already been a month.”
Abrahamson said that while the interest in organic wine has grown, there isn’t much local interest in organic beer. The reason for that is due to supply and demand. The organic beers are just not available.
“We used to carry Peak, but we don’t anymore,” he said. “If we had an organic beer section, I’m sure it would sell. It’s just not out there.” He said the organic beers available in Connecticut are Samuel Smith, Eel River, and Wolaver’s. Other brands you just can’t find.
Wolaver’s is the organic offshoot of Vermont’s Otter Creek. It is proud to acknowledge being the first USDA approved organic beer. Most recently, they added a new pumpkin flavor. Sure, lots of beers have a pumpkin flavor and hoist it out every fall. But Wolaver’s went one step further: They actually named the beer, Will Stevens’ Pumpkin Ale, after the farmer who supplies them with the organic pumpkins.
“Why don’t we come right out and say we support organic farming,” said Max Oswald of Wolaver’s Organic Ales in a WCAX interview of the 600 pounds of pumpkins purchased to make the beer. “The most important piece to this puzzle is the guy that grew the organic pumpkin.”
So today, as you sit back from your plate of corned beef and cabbage languidly sipping your black and tan, you might want to include a bit o’ the green: Organic beer.
Image courtesy of www.Guinness.com and Wolaver's.