The secret to organic beer is, as with other organic foods, use of certified organic ingredients: barley (which is turned into malt), water, hops and yeast. Organic brewers must ensure crops have not been exposed to toxic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers. In the processing stage, they steer clear of enzymes produced by genetically engineered fungi, upon which conventional brewers often rely, according to Luddene Perry and Dan Schultz, authors of A Field Guide to Buying Organic. And the yeast used to make organic beer must also be free of genetically engineered organisms (GEOs).
What’s on Tap?
Several companies are well known for their organic beers. The frontrunner is Middlebury, Vermont-based Wolaver’s certified organic beers, made from certified organic malts and hops, combined with “pure Vermont water” and the company’s special house yeast.
Wolaver’s has offered organic ales since 1998, and you may purchase its certified organic Brown Ale (mild and creamy, with hints of cherry and black currant), Pale Ale (full-bodied and malty) and India Pale Ale (a spicier brew) year-round. Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout, a dark beer brewed with organic rolled oats, is available now through April. The company’s newest product is Wit Bier, a Belgian-style white beer lightly spiced with orange and coriander, which is available from May to September.
Another company with a nice selection of organic beers is Butte Creek Brewing Co. in Chino, California. Its first batch of organic beer was brewed in 1998, and the company now offers Organic Ale (a medium-bodied amber ale), Organic Porter (a robust dark beer), Organic India Pale Ale (full-bodied malt and hops flavor) and Organic Pilsner (a crisp beer brewed with German malt and Czech hops).
Peak Organic Brewing Co. of Burlington, Massachusetts, offers certified organic Pale Ale, Nut Brown Ale and Amber Ale. And British Columbia, Canada-based Pacific Western Brewing Co. added Natureland Organic Lager to its lineup. This beer is brewed with organic malted barley, hops and the company’s naturally pure spring water.
Not to be outdone by smaller brewers, America’s top beer companies are beginning to go organic.
Other big-name brewers are no doubt monitoring sales to see if they want to enter the organic marketplace. My guess? Count on it.