First Friday of the month = beer blogging Friday = The Session! This is a group blogging day, where all the interested beer bloggers of the world write about the same thing on the same day. This month’s session is hosted by Chris O’Brien the Beer Activist. The topic is Organic Beer.
I don’t have a lot of experience with organic beer – I have hardly ever bought any, and I’ve never made any, although I am starting to become more interested in the idea. For a while, I felt like organic anything was a silly excuse to pay more at the grocery store for produce that seemed to spoil sooner than the normal stuff. I like to jokingly refer to non-organic produce as inorganic. I mean, every vegetable is organic, right? Not really.
It turns out that most crops are grown with tons of pesticides and other nasty things that you’d never use in your home garden. And that’s the thing that got me thinking really seriously about organic. I am planting some hop rhizomes this spring, and I need to consider fertilization and pest and disease protection issues. I’d never want to put a bag of chemical products on my precious hops. This just scales up when you consider barley and hops that go into your beer.
Here’s a little story about my best memory of organic beer:
This summer I took Iris, my four year old daughter, to a concert in Bridgeport Connecticut called the Gathering of the Vibes. It is a big festival type of show, with a few days of concerts featuring a lot of people that used to be in the Grateful Dead. Bob Weir’s RatDog was there, and Donna Godchaux must have had about fifty bands she was in that were performing. Even the non-Dead bands were very Grateful Dead-like. It was a lot of tie-dye and sandals and long hair. It was cool. It reminded me of college, except with a kid. We even met my wife’s old college roommate and her infant daughter there.
They had a beer tent. Of course, I was a customer of the beer tent. They were serving Magic Hat’s organic brand, Orlio. They had an Orlio IPA, and I got it. It was really good. I didn’t take any notes (it was hard enough just to drink it while keeping track of Iris), but it was really good. It hit the bitter hops spot. It tasted so nice and clean. I was a fan. I had a few. It was good and fun. That was actually part of what got me back into going after the heavy hops of IPA. I don’t know if it was the day or the experience or the beer itself, but I can almost taste it right now, thinking and writing about it.
A beer being organic doesn’t necessarily make it better tasting than a non-organic beer. But it does say something about the agriculture practices used in making the raw ingredients that go into the beer. Organic barley and hops are generally of the highest quality, so you know that organic beer starts with an advantage. Combine this with the fact that most organic beer producers are very small, you can expect exquisite attention to detail. This nearly assures a great product when you choose an organic beer.
But no matter how organic the ingredients are, a crappy recipe and sloppy process will still make a terrible beer. In this way, organic certification sort of parallels the Rheinheitsgebot German beer purity law. It ensures quality ingredients are used, but it really says nothing about the overall quality or enjoyability of the end product. Fortunately, organic stands for a much more relevant concept in modern times, and it won’t prevent brewers from being innovative.
Beer is food, too. If you are into organic and natural foods, think about the beer you’re drinking. With the readily available organic brands of beer out there, it’s easy to choose organic beer. Sure, you may diverge every now and then. I don’t know of any organic Russian Imperial Stout or Imperial IPA or Gueuze, etc. so sometimes you might have to go non-organic. But for session beers, there are lots of choices in the organic realm.
Thanks to our host, Chris O’Brien, for choosing this the topic. If you are compelled by organic beer, Chris is a huge advocate. That’s why they call him the Beer Activist. He has a book about the topic, which I have begun reading. He also writes for some industry publications, and other articles to be found around and about.
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