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Organic Beer November 21, 2011

Posted by beertography in bison brewing, hopworks urban brewery, organic beer, peak organic, pigsah, rebel brewer, santa cruz mountain brewing, sierra nevada estate, wolaver's.
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About 2 years ago, I did something that changed the way I ate. I saw the film Food, Inc. based on the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I had a strange feeling going into the theatre that it would change the way I live, just as seeing Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me in 2004 stopped me from ever eating fast food again. And I was right. Ever since seeing Food, Inc., I’ve attempted to make my diet 100% organic. It’s a near impossible task so I do the best I can, but it never really translated to my beer purchasing habits.

It’s somewhat inherent in the world of microbreweries to have a concerned focus on local, high-quality ingredients and environmental impact. Many breweries employ wind power or other green technologies within their breweries. Sierra Nevada recently created its first-ever fully sustainable brew Estate, which was made entirely with certified-organic ingredients grown at their facility in California.

But the craft beer world as a whole has yet to fully embrace the idea of organic beer. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few great breweries that pride themselves on their all-organic beers. Prime examples being Wolaver’s out of Middlebury,VT and Hopworks Urban Brewery from Portland, OR. Other examples include Bison Brewing, Pigsah, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and Peak Organic.

The question remains, why organic? It seems most obvious to me that it’s important to buy meat that has been treated properly, but do the same ideas apply to malt and hops? The short answer is yes. Essentially by buying things that are organic, you are supporting an ideology that is committed to seeing less chemicals being absorbed into the earth.

Granted, organic beers aren’t perfect. As it currently stands, a beer can be certified organic as long as 95% of the ingredients used to make it are organic. Because of this, many breweries will use non-organic hops in a certified organic beer. Seems a little strange doesn’t it? Others felt similarly. Thanks to legislative efforts, by 2013 all organic beers must contain organic hops. Let’s hope that doesn’t impact the smaller organic brewers too heavily.

Now even homebrew shops are selling organic beer ingredients. Take for example Rebel Brewer, an online homebrew store based out of Tennessee. Organic 2-row malt goes for $1.55 per pound versus $1.19 for regular 2-row, a pretty nominal difference. The only lingering question I have about conventional malt is: If one boils the sugars extracted from the grain before fermenting, is that enough to kill off any pesticides that were used in the growing process?

Either way, I expect the amount of organic beers produced to increase with great successes from large breweries like Sierra Nevada and smaller ones like Bison Brewing. And I will welcome that by buying and drinking all the organic beer I can get my hands on.

Here’s to a greener brew.

Sierra Nevada Estate Ale – An Organic Venture October 22, 2010

Posted by beertography in organic, sierra nevada estate.
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In the last year and a half or so, I’ve attempted to change my eating habits to that of an “organic when possible” philosophy. Granted, its near impossible to eat 100% organic, but it feels good to try. Plus, a good majority of the time it tastes better! One thing that I haven’t been able to go organic with is beer. Yes, there are some great organic brands out there. Wolaver’s and Peak Organic are fine examples of organic brews, but they are quite limited and sometimes hard to find. That’s where craft brewing giant Sierra Nevada comes in.

Its no secret that Sierra Nevada is a successful company. It was one of the pioneers of the craft movement and nowadays many bars carry (at the very least) the staple Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. But when the brewery located in Chico, California, began growing its own grains and hops on its land, it was a no-brainer to attempt to make the first ever fully sustainable organic ale. And it works…well.

Sierra Nevada Estate is a Wet-Hop Ale weighing in at 6.7% ABV. It was purchased from Whole Foods Bowery Beer Room for a reasonable $9.99. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that adding a green wax to the top of the bottle is alluring in and of itself (and is reminiscent of this year’s incarnation of Three Floyds Dark Lord). It pours a very clear copper color with about 2 fingers worth of head that lingers around quite a bit. Once you get your nose into the glass you’ll notice malty sweetness and a grapefruit citrus aroma. This one drinks bitter, but not overly hoppy. I’d almost like to see a little more in the way of hoppyness here as there isn’t as much citrus in the taste as there is the aroma.

Overall, this beer reminds me a bit of a less-hoppy version of another Sierra Nevada brew: Torpedo. But you can purchase this and feel good about yourself for choosing something sustainable and organic yet also very tasty.