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Saturday November 22nd 2014

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The Other Green Beer


By Jeremy Morrison

Look around at the grocery store. The organic revolution is on. Organic eggs, organic milk, organic, free-range, Harvard-educated chicken, and so on.

Organic beer, however, is a rare—and beautiful—thing. Unlike with food, people have yet to make much fuss over the ethics or sustainability of their beer.

“I don’t think they’re quite as concerned when it comes to their beer, if it’s cold, wet and flavorful and gives them a little bit of a funny feeling in their head, that’s what they’re after,” said Tim Dohms, Hopjacks Pizza Kitchen and Tap Room’s resident beer expert.

Yes, the average American beer drinker is a simple animal. Happily quaffing Bud and Miller.

“They don’t care about flavor and they certainly don’t care about the sourcing of their ingredients,” Dohms explained.

Above the bar, upstairs in his office, Hopjacks’ beer guru elaborated. While most people can get excited about drinking beer, Dohms seems to have a good time just talking about beer, thinking about beer.

He notes that craft beers—brewed in smaller batches, aiming for quality as opposed to quantity—are a fledging game. The craft beer industry, though decades old, is currently elated about capturing 10 percent of the market.

“It’s still a market that’s trying to catch up,” Dohms said. “The American craft beer market is still catching up to American drinkers’ attention. Trailing way behind that are your subcategories, like organic or gluten-free.”

Downstairs at the bar, motioning to a wall full of craft-beer taps—each beautiful lever beckoning pilgrims to the exotic—he explained it another way.

“People are still trying to catch up with all of this as a concept,” Dohms laughed.

Opening a cooler behind the bar, he searched out a couple of offerings. You have to know what you’re looking for. These are the organics.

Dohms smiled at a bottle of Samuel Smith stout.

“The chocolate has always been a good seller for us,” he said.

Further down Palafox, at World of Beer, a bartender rifled through the wall of coolers behind the bar. He returned with an armload of bottles bearing the tell-tale “organic” label of the United States Food and Drug Administration.

There’s Bison and Peak and St. Pete’s. And several Samuel Smith varieties from the other side of the pond.

“It’s a big thing over there,” bartender Patrick Rollins said as he held up one of the Sammy’s.

These organic selections sleep like sweet secrets in the cooler. Few are familiar with these secrets, not many people come in asking for them.

“Most kind of find it accidentally,” said Rollins. “They either know—they’re searching for organics—or they find it and it’s like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s neat.’”

Over at Mellow Mushroom, Ashley Smith is behind the bar. Insofar as organics, she’s got a bevy of Sammy’s—an imperial stout and some fruity varieties.

People don’t come in asking for organic beer, but they are drawn to the English company.

“A lot of people come in asking for Sammy Smith, a lot of people know about it, it’s one of their favorite beers,” Smith said, noting the organic label. “—maybe that’s why.”

Back at Hopjacks, Dohms said that organic varieties don’t necessarily taste much different than their conventional craft-beer counterparts. But that’s not really why folks drink organic beer. They drink it—enduring the search and a slightly higher price—because it’s green.

“Peace of mind-wise,” Dohms explained, “yeah, it’s nice to support these things.”

Pensacola’s Green Beer List

Samuel Smith, Organic Lager
Made with organic malted barely and hops and a bottom-fermenting yeast. Bears the Soil Association and Vegan Society labels.
Where it’s Brewed: Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Where to Get It: Richey’s West

Samuel Smith Organic Best Ale
A delicately flavored golden ale with a background of maltiness and hops.
Where it’s Brewed: Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Where to Get It: Richey’s West, World of Beer (this is a “last call” selection, meaning it’s $2 cheaper and will soon be gone)

Samuel Smith Organic Apricot
Handcrafted at the tiny All Saints Brewery in Stamford, this brew is then transported to Tadcaster, where it is blended with pure organic apricot juice.
Where it’s Brewed: Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Where to Get It: Mellow Mushroom, Richey’s West, World of Beer

Samuel Smith, Strawberry Ale
Handcrafted at the tiny All Saints Brewery in Stamford, this brew is then transported to Tadcaster, where it is blended with pure organic strawberry juice.
Where it’s Brewed: Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Where to Get It: Mellow Mushroom, World of Beer

Samuel Smith, Raspberry
Handcrafted at the tiny All Saints Brewery in Stamford, this brew is then transported to Tadcaster, where it is blended with pure organic raspberry juice.
Where it’s Brewed: Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Where to Get It: Mellow Mushroom

Samuel Smith, Organic Chocolate Stout
This stout consists of gently roasted organic chocolate malt and organic cocoa. This stout-chocolate combination creates a smooth and creamy character. Registered with the Vegan Society.
Where it’s Brewed: Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Where to Get It: World of Beer, Hopjacks

Samuel Smith, Imperial Stout
This beer was originally brewed to withstand the abuses of shipping in foul weather to Imperial Russia. Carries the Vegan Society label. Where it’s Brewed: Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Where to Get It: Mellow Mushroom

Eel River Brewing Company, Porter
Employs a blend of five malts that compliment and highlight one another.
Where it’s Brewed: Scotia, Calif.
Where to Get It: Ever’man Natural Foods

Eel River Brewing Company, IPA
Features a bright-minted cooper color with a crisp, yet smooth hop bitterness taste.
Where it’s Brewed: Scotia, Calif.
Where to Get It: Ever’man Natural Foods

Eel River Brewing Company, California Blonde Ale
This beer is a light, crisp ale with a perfect balance of malt and subtle bitterness.
Where it’s Brewed: Scotia, Calif.
Where to Get It: Ever’man Natural Foods

Eel River Brewing Company, Amber Ale
This was the brewery’s first certified organic beer.
The ale is medium-bodied with a hoppy bouquet.
Where it’s Brewed: Scotia, Calif. Where to Get It: Ever’man Natural Foods

Neumarkter Lammsbrau, Organic Dunkel
Pours a clear orange, with a foamy khaki head that settles to the top.
Where it’s Brewed: Germany
Where to Get It: Ever’man Natural Foods

Fish Tale, India Pale Ale
This is a medium-bodied beer with a golden color. Features organic Pacific Gem.
Where it’s Brewed: Olympia, Wash.
Where to Get It: Ever’man Natural Foods

Fish Tale, Wild Salmon Pale Ale
Four organic malts, along with Yakima Cascade hops, are featured in this brew.
Where it’s Brewed: Olympia, Wash.
Where to Get It: Ever’man Natural Foods

Lakefront, Extra Special Bitter Ale
A classic, British-style extra special bitter that pours a brilliant copper.
Where it’s Brewed: Milwaukee
Where to Get It: Ever’man Natural Foods

Bison, Chocolate Stout
This stout features rich cocoa and roasted malt aromas, with flavors of dark chocolate and espresso.
Where it’s Brewed: Berkeley, Calif.
Where to Get It: World of Beer

Bison, IPA
A medium-bodied ale with a citrus, pine and slightly grassy aroma.
Where it’s Brewed: Berkeley, Calif.
Where to Get It: World of Beer (this is a “last call” selection, meaning it’s $2 cheaper and will soon be gone)

Peak, IPA
Features Simcoe, Amarillo and Nugget hops.
Where it’s Brewed: Portland, Maine
Where to Get It: World of Beer

Peak, Pomegranate, Wheat
Brewed with locally grown organic wheat, coriander, as well as pomegranate and acai juice.
Where it’s Brewed: Portland, Maine
Where to Get It: World of Beer

St. Peter’s Brewery, Organic English Ale
Combines organic hops with Soil Association-accredited barley and water drawn from a 300-foot borehole. Delicate, clean, crisp.
Where it’s Brewed: Suffolk, United Kingdom
Where to Get It: World of Beer

Foret, Belgian Saison Ale
Belgium’s first 100 percent certified organic beer. Filtered with artesian well water.
Where it’s Brewed: Belgium
Where to Get It: World of Beer

Green Breweries
Stainless steel tanks tower in the back room of Pensacola Bay Brewery. They hold the likes of DeLuna, Lil’Napoleon and Riptide. None of the brewery’s offerings are organic. But PBB does get eco-points on the operational side. They recycle their mash, or grain mixture.

Brewer Rogers Conolly pointed out the tank where the mash is collected.

“Undesirables for here,” he noted, “still nutritious for cows to eat.”

Each week, the Bay Brewery creates between 2,000 and 4,000 pounds of mash. Or, a lot of cow food.

“We have a local farm that comes by and collects our grains,” Conolly explained.

Each week, Gizmo Angus Farm’s cows feast on the newest batch of mash from the brewery. The mash isn’t separated out by the various styles of beer it gave birth to, but the cows apparently don’t mind.

“The cows aren’t picky, man, at all,” the brewer said. “They rush the truck when they see it coming.”

Like the Pensacola Bay Brewery, a lot of breweries are finding small ways to help make their operations more environmentally friendly. While organics is an arena only a select few breweries have ventured into, many others put energy into greening their business when possible.

Here are a few breweries to turn to for those eco-conscious brews.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Jump on this Chico, Calif. brewery’s website and check out exactly where its power is coming from. Some is generated by the more than 10,000 solar panels the company has installed—making it one of the largest privately-owned solar arrays in the country and generating 20 percent of the brewery’s power—while some is generated by four hydrogen fuel cells.

New Belgium Brewing Company
Best known for its flagship Fat Tire amber ale, this Fort Collins, Colo. establishment was the first brewery to turn on to wind power. The brewery also has Team Wonderbike, a 10,000-strong collection of customers who pledge to ride their bikes more often in an effort to lesson CO2 emissions.

The Alaskan Brewing Company

This brewery in Juneau reuses CO2 produced during the fermentation process. It also donates one percent of sales to the environmental non-profit CODE, or Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone.

Brooklyn Brewery

All of this New York brewery’s energy needs are provided by wind power. It pays the electric company a premium rate in order to replace its usage with energy produced at a wind farm.

Full Sail Brewing Company
This Hood River, Oregon brewery boasts a four-day workweek. The shortened week cuts down on energy use and water consumption.

Check out our other Green Issue stories.