Choosing authentic green beer

Photo: istockphoto.com/Valentyn Volkov

On average Americans consume 2.8 billion litres (7.4 billion gallons) per year while Canadians guzzled just over 2.3 billion litres (6.0 billion gallons). That's a lot of brewski. This summer you want to cool off with a different kind of beer.

Nasty surprises
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warns about a possible link between beer consumption and cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus. The report also noted most conventional wine, beer, and spirits have known or suspected human carcinogens that included acetaldehyde, nitrosamines, aflatoxins, ethyl carbamate (urethan), asbestos, and arsenic compounds.

Adding to the hangover
Also added to the mix are additives used to speed up the lengthy brewing process as well as those that improve the beer's head of foam. Possible beer additives include betaglucanase, ammonia caramel, rhoiso-alpha acids, sulphur dioxide, protease, amyloglucosidase, propylene glycol alginate and silicone. While most have been declared somewhat safe for consumption, many believe these additives dampen the flavour and give you hangovers.

Clearly, it's time to go green!

Easier on the liver
Drinking organic beer lets you avoid the threat of carcinogens or other unwanted additives. Organic or "green" beer is made with all-natural ingredients such as hops, barley, wheat and water (no green dye), grown without the use of harmful insecticides, herbicides, fungicides or pesticides. Organic beer is also easier on your liver since it doesn't have to filter the additives and chemicals on top of dealing with the alcohol.

Think local, drink local
As much as we love our beer, it does have a rather large carbon footprint. Consider how far that imported beer travels. Or how much energy is needed to keep heavy glass bottles or aluminium cans cold in the walk-in refrigerators and then in your basement fridge. The enviro-friendly alternative is to support your local microbrewery, where most organic beer is produced.

As an nice sideline, most local breweries give tours of their facilities where you can see first-hand how your new favourite pint is produced. Of course, free samples are always part of the visit. Real Beer even has an online micro-brewery directory so you can find organic beer wherever you are in the U.S. or Canada.

Flavour is not compromised
Don't worry about losing flavour when you go green. Organic Breweries topped the list at the 2007 North American Beer Awards and get consistently high ratings with both Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, two well-respected online beer forums.

German beers usually tops both lists but then Germany takes its beer drinking very seriously; a law dating back to 1516 decrees that beer can include only water, hops, yeast and malted barley or wheat.

Gaining in popularity
Sales of organic beer grew from $9 million USD in 2003 to $19 million USD in 2005. And in September 2006 Anheuser-Busch, one of the world's largest beer producers, introduced two organic choices, further proof that organic beer is a growing reality.

Brew your own
You may even get inspired and start brewing your own beer. There are several magazines dedicated to home brewing. Brew Your Own has plenty of tips on how to create the perfect brewski as well as beginner's guides and recipes.

So, next time you raise a pint, make it an organic one.