Local and Organic Beer: the Time Has Come

crudor2Local beer is easy to find these days, especially if you have a tendency to drink microbrews, as I do, and live in a decent sized city (like Minneapolis or St. Paul, as the case may be). At the bar down the street from my house, I can easily find Summit, James Page, Finnegan's, or my new favorite local brew, Surly, just about any night of the week. Beer lovers discuss and debate the merits of these beers with passion, awaiting new beers and flavors like the new Summit Horizon Red Ale weeks before they're available.lakefront-esb For some reason, organic beer isn't as easy to find, and the ones I've had until recently haven't been all that great.

I corrected that last week at French Meadow Cafe, where I had a pint of Lakefront ESB, brewed at the Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee, WI. Lakefront is the oldest certified organic brewery in the country (brewing their first organic beer in 1996). The flavor was full and lively, with lots of hops. Delicious. I recently stumbled on an article from Tom Philpott in Grist online, listing quite a few organic beers, what "eco-claim" they make (Certified organic by the USDA-accredited UK Soil Association, 100 percent wind-powered, etc), and a few tasting notes. The article is well worth a read, and I'm going to try and hunt down several of the beers, which are described below in Tom Philpott's words:

Cru D’Or Belgian Style Ale North Coast Brewing Co. Fort Bragg, Calif. Price: $2.79/12 oz. Eco-claim: Certified organic by Oregon Tilth This has earned a spot in the Bottom Line Hall of Fame; it’s the only beer that’s been featured in all three of our tastings. It took top honors in our first tasting—and landed first in this one too. (Oddly, it didn’t do nearly as well in our second tasting.) Even its color inspired poetry; Leo was moved to call it “dark and stormy.” He praised its “cave-like, sweet aroma,” and found fruit tones giving way to chocolate on the palate. I loved its deep, citrusy, maraschino-cherry nose and citrus-butterscotch flavor. Bernard picked up Scotch-like aromas samuel-smith-organd bitter-almond flavors. Matt had an odd reading—he found it very rich, with a roasted nut flavor, but also found vegetal (beans, field peas) tones. Julia correctly identified it as Belgian-style, and ranked it number two.

Samuel Smith Organic Lager Samuel Smith Brewery, Yorkshire, England Price: $2.79/12 oz. Eco-claim: Certified organic by the USDA-accredited UK Soil Association This one, from the revered UK brewery Sammy Smith, had a solid showing, faring much better than it did in our tasting last spring. It didn’t finish in our top three, but came close. This is a beautiful beer to look at—a deep yellow gold or amber. I found it to be a classic sipping lager—a well-knit brew with wheaty malt notes balanced by a long hop finish. I also loved its silky mouthfeel. Leo picked up orange on the nose and straw and wheat on the palate, while Bernard found apricot flavors.

I'm excited to try new, organic beers. Please let me know what you find! This article has been posted to Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays.