Despite the challenges, more and more U.S. hops and wheat growers are going pesticide-free. More than 150 organic beers (and growing) are sold domestically, with sales ballooning from $9 million in 2003 to $19 million in 2005, according to the Organic Trade Association. Goschie Farms in Oregon’s Willamette Valley has started growing small batches of pesticide-free organic hops, and fifth-generation hops farmer Steve Carpenter in Washington state supplies organic hops to Olympia.’s Fish Brewing Co. for its certified-organic pale ale. In Berkeley, Calif., Bison Brewing crafts a certified-organic, plum-sweet Belgian ale with ingredients sourced from the Midwest and, north of California’s Bay Area, Eel River Brewing Co. makes a line of certified-organic beers, including a smooth, citrusy India Pale Ale.There's more, including a section on barrel aging featuring Vinnie Cilurzo. Go read the whole article.
“We just try to reinvent the wheel,” says Craig Nicholls, a 38-year-old father of three with a shaved head and a fist-size brown goatee, who launched the first Northwest Organic Brewers festival in 2003 (it now attracts brewers from England and Germany) and co-founded Roots Organic Brewing, Oregon’s first all-organic brewery, in 2005. “We’re not a bunch of tree-huggers, but we do our part.” Roots’ beers are oddballs. Burghead Heather Ale eschews hops for 100 percent heather tips, while the toasted-coconut porter is a tropical transplant, fashioned from hand-toasted organic coconuts.
This level of commitment is not always easy. “It took us months to get our beers certified organic,” Nicholls recalls. Plus, every time he conceives a bizarre new brew (like Epic Ale, which features malt smoked over cherry wood that’s been soaked in cognac and cherry juice), he files reams of paperwork proving the ingredients’ organic provenance. Tack on costly ingredients, and “it’s a lot of work for not a lot of bucks,” Nicholls says, adding that brewing organics is not about cashing in—it’s about the tradition of richer, sweeter, fuller-flavored beers. “We’re returning to the roots of brewing, the way beer is supposed to be made.”
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