Beer is food. Real beer, that is, beer that has nutritional value. We're not talking _______ (fill in the blank) light. We're talking something with real barley and fresh hops, without any rice involved. BEER. It is (thankfully), something that is becoming more and more common in our Golden Age of Micro Brew. The gospel of good beer has spread far and wide, and now, it is time for beer drinkers to start thinking about what they are putting into their bodies. And how the brewing industry is effecting the earth we live on.
There is no question that organic farming is a big step towards healing the earth. The industrially produced pesticides, fertilizers, and the genetic pollution of GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops have a drastic impact upon the planet. They make it slightly easier for farmers to keep the business running, but what happens down stream is an ecological nightmare. Organic farming methods rely on nature's own defense mechanisms to keep plants healthy and productive, and produce tastier products that are free of poison. By supporting organic breweries, beer drinkers have a chance to increase everyone's quality of life on earth.
Organic beer is certainly better for the planet, and this is also a growing market. Organic beers are renowned for their marked increase in taste and flavor, and even beer giants like Anheuser-Busch are now making moves to break into this market. Commercially speaking, organics are a growth market. Beer fans are making their voices heard in the field, and their money is doing the talking. Generally speaking, if some one is willing to plunk down seven to eight dollars for a six pack, they are willing to spend an extra dollar for the increased quality and sustainability of a pack of organic beer.
Companies like Wolaver's, Peak, Butte Creek, Wild Hop, and Stone Mill are forging ahead in this territory, producing fine quality organic ales, and many micro breweries are also following suit. One stumbling block for many brewers is the strict requirements of the organic seal of approval. Many smaller farms cannot afford the certification process, leaving them in a kind of null zone. They are producing crops organically, which is more work for them, but because they cannot afford the certification, they cannot sell their crops for a price that reflects the amount of extra time put into the farm.
Under current organic certification guidelines in the United States, small farms cannot compete in the organic market. This makes it difficult to determine which ales are organic. If they are certified organic, they most likely come from a larger company farm, where non-organic farming practices are likely to slip by. The best thing to do is to buy locally, both for your local economy, and for the planet, because of the resources wasted in the shipping process - and if your local brewery produces an organic ale, it is certain to be the perfect choice for sustainability.
It is interesting that the trend for organics in many food markets is increasing in profitability and increasing the sustainability of farming for large and mid sized farms. If we can just work out the kinks in the certification system for organics, the merging of economic and ecological sustainability of organic beer may be a model for other green businesses.
We can see that the trend towards organics is a benevolent course for the world of beer drinkers. The problem now is making the certification process meld with the economic and ecological sustainability of buying locally. As the effects of climate change are becoming more and more noticeable in the world, it is important to "think globally, act locally" in every aspect of our lives. Organic beer isn't going to save the planet - but it just might make it nicer for us all to live on while we're still here.