EarthTalk: I see more and more organic wines
on store shelves these days, but what options are out there
today for organic beer?
-- Ken Strong, Wichita, KS
to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. organic beer
sales more than quadrupled from $9 million to $41
million between 2003 and 2009. Pictured: Wolaver's
certified organic Pumpkin Ale.
© Juli, courtesy Flickr
80 million Americans drink beer, yet organic beer represents
still only a sliver of the $7 billion U.S. craft beer market.
But this sliver is quickly turning into a slice: Between
2003 and 2009, according to the Organic Trade Association,
U.S. organic beer sales more than quadrupled from $9 million
to $41 million.
to Seven Bridges Cooperative, which has been selling organic
brewing ingredients for a decade already, organic beers
tend to feature exceptional clarity and a clean, flavorful
taste. “On a more technical side, organic malts on
average have a lower protein content which produces a clear
mash and less haze problems in the finished beer,”
reports Seven Bridges. “Organic malts and hops have
no chemical residues to interfere with fermentation to give
the organic brewer a clean, unadulterated beer.”
Bridges mail you all the ingredients you need to brew your
own organic beer at home, but most of us would rather just
enjoy the finished product. Depending on where you live,
you might have dozens of organic beer brands available in
bottles and even on tap at your favorite watering hole.
of the most visible is Fortuna, California-based Eel River
Brewing Company, founded in 1996. Eel River has the distinction
of being America’s first certified organic brewery.
Their IPA, Pale Ale, Porter, Amber Ale, Blonde Ale, Old
Ale and Imperial Stout are all crafted from organic hops
from New Zealand and organic grains from the Pacific Northwest
Creek Brewery, established in 1998 in Chico, California,
brews organic Pilsner, Porter, Pale Ale and India Pale Ale.
Their award-winning beers are distributed internationally.
Olympia, Washington-based Fish Tale Organic Ales has been
brewing ales, porters and stouts to rave reviews since 1993,
and introduced its first certified organic beer in 2000.
And Otter Creek Brewery in Middlebury, Vermont produces
a line of organic ales called Wolaver‘s, which includes
an Oatmeal Stout and a Pumpkin Ale.
UK‘s Samuel Smith Brewery turns out a full line of
acclaimed organic ale, lager and fruit beers. Other popular
choices include Pinkus Organic Munster Alt, Peak Organic,
New Belgium‘s Mothership Wit Wheat Beer, and Lakefront
Organic ESB, among others. And Whole Foods Markets now produces
its own private label organic beer called Lamar Street,
which is known for its rich flavor and low cost.
surprisingly, even the big boys are beginning to jump in.
Anheuser-Busch is pushing its Stone Mill, Wild Hops and
Green Valley organic beers. And Miller‘s Henry Weinhard‘s
Organic Amber, on store shelves since 2007, is brewed with
local ingredients by the Full Sail Brewery in Hood River,
way to sample dozens of organic beers at once is to attend
the North American Organic Brewers Festival (NAOBF), held
every June in Portland, Oregon. Whether you clue into organic
beers at this event or just at your local pub you can‘t
go wrong by spreading your eco-consciousness to your beer
Trade Association; Seven
Bridges Cooperative; Eel
River Brewing; Butte
Creek Brewing; Fish
EarthTalk: In my business courses in college,
we were taught that ecological degradation was an “externality”—something
outside the purview of economic analyses. Now that the environment
is of such concern, are economists beginning to rethink
-- Josh Dawson, Flagstaff, AZ
want to put a monetary value on the negative impacts
of industrial activities, such as polluting, and to
force offending companies and utilities to compensate
society for the harm they do.
© Thinkstock Images
economic externalities are the indirect negative (or positive)
side effects, considered un-quantifiable in dollar terms,
of other economic acts. For example, a negative externality
of a power plant that is otherwise producing a useful good
(electricity) is the air pollution it generates. In traditional
economics, the harmful effect of the pollution (smog, acid
rain, global warming) on human health and the environment
is not factored in as a cost in the overall economic equation.
And as the economists go, so go the governments that rely
on them. The result is that most nations do not consider
environmental and other externalities in their calculations
of gross domestic product (GDP) and other key economic indicators
(which by extension are supposed to be indicators of public
health and well-being).
For decades environmentalists
have argued that economics should take into account the
costs borne by such externalities in order to discern the
true overall value to society of any given action or activity.
The company or utility that operates the polluting factory,
for instance, should be required to compensate the larger
society by paying for the pollution it produces so as to
offset the harm it does.
schemes are one real-world way of monetizing a negative
externality: Big polluters must buy the right to generate
limited amounts of carbon dioxide (and they can trade such
rights with other companies that have found ways to lower
their carbon footprints, thus creating an incentive for
polluters to clean up their acts). While cap-and-trade was
invented in the U.S. to clean up acid rain pollution, it
is a model used in Europe but not yet in America, which
has yet to pass legislation mandating it. Until Congress
acts to regulate the output of carbon dioxide in the U.S.—via
cap-and-trade means or others—such emissions will
remain “external” to the economics of carrying
Recent news that
has many greens excited is that the World Bank, the leading
financier of development projects around poorer parts of
the globe, is starting to think outside the traditional
economic box. This past October, World Bank president Robert
Zoellick told participants at a conference for the Convention
on Biological Diversity (an international treaty signed
by 193 countries—not including the U.S.—that
went into effect in 1993 to sustain biodiversity) that “the
natural wealth of nations should be a capital asset valued
in combination with its financial capital, manufactured
capital and human capital.” Zoellick’s comments
are the first sign from the World Bank of its recognition
of the need to consider externalities in any overall economic
assessment. “[We] need to reflect the vital carbon
storage services that forests provide and the coastal protection
values that come from coral reefs and mangroves,”
Critics are still
waiting to see if the World Bank will walk its talk. “It’s
a fine rhetorical start,” says the New York Times’
Andrew Revkin in his blog. “But the announcement by
the bank of a $10 million ‘Save Our Species’
fund, with the United Nations Global Environmental Facility
and International Union for Conservation of Nature, seems
quite piddling in a world where money flows in the trillions,”
he adds. Indeed, we may still be a ways off from including
our environmental impacts into our measures of social wealth
and health, but at least the World Bank has gone on record
as to the need to do so, and you can be sure that environmental
advocates will be working to hold its feet to the fire.
on Biological Diversity.
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