By Kim Robson
Planning for wine or beer on for Valentines Day? Then make sure to serve organic.
Humans have been fermenting fruits, vegetables, and grains since the dawn of civilization. Ancient Mesopotamians stored “liquid bread” for later, using straws to drink beer from large vats as early as 9,000 years ago. Around the same time, a Neolithic village in northern China was producing a mixed fermented beverage made from rice, honey, and fruit. Sumerians, Egyptians, and Hebrews used alcohol for medicinal applications. The Greeks and Romans were well-known drinkers. Up to just a hundred years or so ago, Americans and Europeans drank low-strength beer and cider as a matter of course because it was guaranteed not to be rancid. Even wild animals learn that eating half-rotten fallen fruit makes them feel happy, sleepy and goofy. Alcohol’s benefits (and evils) have been known for millennia.
If you enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages, why not consider buying organic beer or wine? Did you even know they existed? A growing selection of fermented spirits from the vine, the garden, and the field are available to help you contribute to restoring the environment, empowering workers, and protecting your health. Chemical-free organic beers and wines are not only better for your health, but they taste better, too!
Andrew Myers, dining room manager at Washington, DC’s Restaurant Nora, America’s first certified organic restaurant, says, “I recommend organic wines and beers to our customers because of their excellent quality, not just because it’s the right thing to do.”
Enjoying beverages made by small, locally based vintners and brewers helps support family-owned businesses and the communities they serve. If you pay a visit to a local craft beer or wine maker, often you’ll get to meet the brewmaster or head vintner and see how the fermentation process works. Many small vineyards and breweries host tastings, weddings, parties, and other events.
Buying from small scale local breweries and vintners is good for the environment, even if they’re not certified organic:
· In most cases, microbrews are consumed locally, keeping dollars in the local economy, and reducing the negative environmental effects of long distance transportation, discussed recently here on Green-Mom.
· Many microbreweries allow customers to bring in refillable half-gallon containers called “growlers.” Regulars can pop into the brewpub and get their growler filled up to take home, reducing unnecessary packaging. Plus you get a break on the price.
Eco-minded imbibers can now enjoy an ever-widening array of unusual varieties of beers and wines to try.
Twenty years ago, there were only a couple dozen microbreweries in the U.S. By 2010, that number has increased to 2,126, according to the Brewers Association. Microbreweries are constantly pioneering new varieties of beer to suit many different tastes, and they are even reviving some long-forgotten beer “species” from history. For example, Anchor Brewing rescued the last remaining “steam beer” (a unique American style of beer) brewery in California several years ago. San Diego, in particular, has recently blossomed into one of the world’s premier microbrewing centers.
All of the following breweries and vintners have certified organic beverages that are nationally available in stores and taverns around the country:
· Mountain People’s Beer & Wine Distributing – An independent family-run distributor providing California with the largest selection of organic wines and beers available.
· Wolaver’s – Produces three organic beers and an organic hard cider. While most organic hops are imported from New Zealand and Germany, Wolaver’s uses organic hops grown in the U.S.
· Dogfish Head Brewing Company – Offers many standard beers throughout the year, but many others are once-a-year batches. Available in 28 states.
· Frey Vineyards – America’s first organic winery, located in Redwood Valley, CA. They produce a number of varietals, from a dry Chardonnay to a hearty Merlot. In 1996, they became the first producer of certified Biodynamic® wines.
If you indulge in the occasional cocktail, good news! Distilled spirits are going green, too, with recent entries in the market including organic vodka and gin. Also keep an eye out for rare, hard-to-find rye and hemp beers. Although the Drug Enforcement Agency has attempted to prohibit hemp from being incorporated into foods and beverages, so far these products remain legal and safe.
Looking for a virgin alternative? Natural organic sodas and non-alcoholic ciders are becoming very popular at many establishments. Old Dominion Brewing Company in Virginia offers an all natural root beer. Other microbreweries, like Sprecher Brewery in Wisconsin, feature a line of all natural gourmet sodas. Or make up your own concoctions with a home carbonation system like Soda Stream. Soda’s been getting a bad rap lately, but when you control what goes into them, they can be delicious AND healthy.