Sunday, July 10, 2011

North American Organic Brewers Festival

It’s an event with a title that makes some people laugh -- Organic Beer, isn’t it all Organic most people ask. The short answer -- yes, these selections are just a little MORE organic. According to the event program all the beers in the NAOBF are either 100% organic, organic 95-99% or made with organic ingredients 70-95%. The EPA says that commercial agriculture is responsible for 70% of pollutions in rivers and streams around the country so I suppose drinking organic beer really does help.

Here’s how it’s defined by
“Organic certification has several different levels. The highest level of certification is “100 Percent Organic,” and is achieved when only organically produced ingredients and processing aids are used (i.e. no chemicals or pesticides). Next is “Organic,” which are those products that contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. The remaining ingredients must be proven not to be available in organic form in the quantity and quality needed for the product. The non-organic ingredients must be included in the USDA's National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. At present, hops usually comprise the non-organic component of certified organic beers, because some varieties can be hard to obtain in organic form.
Members of the American Organic Hop Grower Association (AOHGA) have argued that the National Organic Standards Board’s (NOSB) allowance of non-organic hops in organic beer has created an economic disincentive to grow organic hops. In turn, many brewers, some of whom are also AOHGA members, who produce beers with organic hops have argued that their costs are higher, and that there is a difference between their products and those produced without organic hops. The dynamic created by the NOSB, a regulatory catch-22, has slowed the growth of U.S. organic hop production by preventing the development of a feasible organic hops market in America. In December 2009, the AOHGA petitioned the USDA to have hops removed from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. As a result, in October 2010, the NOSB Handling Committee recommended a two-year transition period towards removal of hops from the list. By 2013, all beers bearing the word “organic” on their labels must be brewed with organic hops. The two-year window is intended to give brewers and growers time to secure organic hop stocks, and should result in the availability of a much greater variety and supply of organic hops in the long term.”

Anyway, back to Portland’s Organic Beer Fest. Accompanied by Craig, Melanie and Abbey we jumped on the Max Yellow line down by Union station for the ride across the river and up the hill to Overlook Park. There was a long line but short wait to get our ID’s checked and get in the gate. Then we quickly got our cornstarch glass and tokens (we got one for free since we’d ridden the Max up) and went to get in line for our first sample.

Here’s what I tried (and what my friends and I thought about them):

#1: Fish Tale Organic IPA (Fish Brewing Co -- Olympia, WA)
malt, wood, sweet, smooth hops

#2: Rose City Red (Lucky Labrador Brew Pub -- Portland, OR)
very mild first taste, bitter at the end

#3: Organic Black Lager (MateVeza -- Ukiah, CA)
burnt coffee, hearth, peat taste

#4: Hop, Skip & Go Natural (American Brewing Co -- Edmunds, WA)
crisp summer brew, bitter middle
My favorite of the day -- the only one I got a full glass of

#5: Green Lakes Organic Ale (Deschutes Brewery -- Bend, OR)
sweet smell (my scribbled notes started to get worse as the day went on and I can’t read the rest)

#6: Organic Acai Berry Wheat (Eel River Brewing Co -- Scotia, CA)
touch of sweet to tip of tongue, very similar to Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss

#7: Galactic Imperial Red (Hopworks Urban Brewery -- Portland, OR)
sweet and bitter mix *biggest line all day was for this beer 9.5% ABV maybe ;)

#8: Rise Up Red (Hopworks Urban Brewery -- Portland, OR)
Light, a perfect beer for those who insist they only like large scale domestic products

#9: Spruce Budd Ale (Fort George Brewery & Public House -- Astoria, OR)
recommended by someone I met in another line, citrus taste, much lighter than you’d expect


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