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How to Go Green with Organic Beer

One thing everyone can agree on is that environmental causes are ruling the airwaves right now. Everywhere you turn, there’s another message about “going green”, and the subject of beer has recently joined the fold. A far cry from the green beer that’s served on St. Patrick’s Day, organic beer has started to enter the mainstream. But is this just a passing fancy, or is there something to this trend?

Organic beer is made up of ingredients that are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, and without toxic, persistent pesticides. Also, the soil in which these ingredients are grown must have been free from these substances for 3 years or more. In addition, genetically modified ingredients are prohibited from making up the beer. These guidelines were set up by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1997 as part of their National Organic Program, and they hold true today.

What are the benefits of adhering to these guidelines? The most obvious benefit is that when farming organically, one leaves less of a footprint on the land and the environment. Erosion has been shown to be reduced as a result of organic farming, and less ground water pollution is produced as well. Thanks to the reduction in these environmentally harming processes, less of a toll is taken on the surrounding wildlife.

But the real question is: how does this affect the beer? After all, it’s great to lessen our impact on this Earth, but at what cost? Many believe the organic process actually creates a better beer than traditional farming methods. Brewers offer anecdotal evidence that the aroma from organic hops is stronger than that of its chemically-produced counterpart. Also, many claim that chemical residues from fertilizer and pesticides can interfere with fermentation, so the absence of these residues is a boon to this process. Besides, who wants to drink something that contains chemical residues anyway?

According to the Organic Trade Association, organic beer sales in North America more than doubled from $9 million in 2003 to $19 million in 2005. That’s still a paltry number when compared to the billions of dollars spent annually on beer worldwide, but with a growth rate like that it won’t be long before this niche market grows into a driving force in the industry.

If you want to try organic beer for yourself, fortunately there are many choices available. There are small craft brewers such as Peak Organic Brewing Company out of Maine, and Otter Creek Brewing, which has been producing organic ales in Vermont since 1998. New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado, maker of the celebrated Fat Tire Pale Ale, has gotten in on the act as well with Mothership Wit, an organic wheat beer. But even Anheuser-Busch has caught on, starting with two organic offerings in 2006, Stone Mill pale ale and Wild Hop lager. So if you want to enjoy a nice brew while doing your share in reducing our impact on the environment, organic beer is just the ticket to the real way of drinking responsibly.

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