Saturday, May 26, 2007

Drink your green beer

I’m writing the beer and brewery descriptions for this year’s Oregon Brewer’s Festival Program, a welcome return to a task I left to others’ capable hands some ten years ago. It’s the 20th annual festival, and many of the 72 breweries are boiling up some special batches for the event. I’m not at liberty yet to say what, but rest assured, it’ll be an exciting long weekend for your taste buds.

It will also be good for you – and the planet.

This year's OBF could be crowned the Year of Green Beer. And not the food-coloring-in-your-CoorsMillOb variety, either. At least nine of the 60 known entries thus far are organic beers. In addition, four breweries claim to be greener and cleaner than all the other in their production methods and other civic goodness. Combinations of solar and wind power and donations to earth-friendly causes lead the rightful crowing.

The way to a beer-drinker’s heart, I guess, is through his conscience.

For it seems that he craft brewing industry has suddenly caught on to the need for sustainable practices – or, at least, the marketability of bragging about it. The upcoming second annual Organic Beer Festival here in Portland is testimony to the fact that Oregonians love their beer and their planet. That festival, a smash hit in 2006, had to change venues, I’m told, because it already outgrew the beautiful and appropriate setting it had last year at the World Forestry Center.

Even then, I think some breweries are under-selling their earth-friendliness, or are missing opportunities to capitalize on it. At least one brewery I know of makes several organic beers but didn’t enter one (or claim its organic status) in the 2007 OBF program. And at least one well-known all-organic brewery isn’t even on the list.

I see the same phenomenon happening in the craft wine industry, although they’re perhaps a little ahead of the game. One of my favorite wineries, Brick House (of Newberg, OR), is all organic, and always has been. But it wasn’t until very recently that they even stated that fact on their wine’s label. The winemaker there told me that it’s because organic wines had a negative stigma in the industry for low quality and poor shelf life. Those are not problems with Brick House wines, I promise you.

It’s also not a problem with the “green” beers and breweries you’ll experience at the Organic Beer Fest or the Oregon Brewer’s Festival. The breweries pouring at these events all have great reputations, and in many cases, have brewed these same beers for years without claiming their earth-friendly goodness.

Up until now. Now, earth-friendly is not only good for the world, it’s good for business. It not only is green – it helps bring in the green.

So drink your green beer this year. Your grandchildren will be glad you did.