The Organic Beer Guide
In the 1990s, Roger Protz attended a dinner where English hop farmers celebrated a successful harvest. When he asked the group about organic hops, his hosts responded with “pop-eyed dismay,” insisting that the demand for organic beer was insignificant, and that organically grown brewing ingredients were of low quality.
Protz, an internationally known writer on beer, also takes a keen interest in a sustainable environment, and the hop growers’ dismissal of organic beer became a challenge to him to document organic beers and ciders country by country. His concern is not that organic beer necessarily tastes better, or that a pint of organically produced beer is better for your health than one made from non-organic ingredients. Even the most dedicated organic brewer will admit that the amounts of pesticides and pollutants that actually make it through the brewing process and into the beer are insignificant to human health.
Protz’ concern is that conventional agriculture imposes unacceptable and cumulative burdens on the environment that, in turn, are the source of risks to our health and to environmental sustainability. It is the argument that lies at the heart of the organic farming movement.
Protz devotes chapters to the organic beers of Britain, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and the United States; to organic ciders of England and France; to the “heros of organics;” and to organic pubs in Britain. Here are beers worth tasting, breweries to support for their pioneering efforts, and innovators to watch in the future.
This multi-country survey is a good deal thinner than CAMRA’s guide to good (non-organic) pubs in Britain alone. But, given the dramatic growth of organic production and its move into the mainstream, the hop farmers’ insistence that there’s “no demand” for organic beer is encouragingly out of date.