Sustainable Agriculture Update: Organic Beer that's the Real Deal

For all of us who have been drinking our way through the limited, but ever growing, selection of "certified organic" beer, it may come  as a surprise that the hops used to brew all those beers was not necessarily as organic as we thought. This is because a beer can be certified as organic even if the hops are not organically grown, but everything else is.

It seems misleading, and it is, but there was some reasoning behind adding hops to the list of things that pass as acceptable in organic products without actually being organic (as determined by the USDA's National Organic  Standards Board). At the time of the decision, organic hops weren't readily available in the US, and certainly not on a large scale. The only truly organic hops were shipped in from New Zealand and Europe. But domestic brewers wanted to jump on the organic train regardless, and the Board obliged, adding hops to the list of consumables that can be certified organic even if they're not organically grown, due to the fact that they weren't commercially available. While some beers may really use organic hops, or at least a portion of organic, keeping hops on the list of approved in organics doesn't provide much incentive for growers or brewers to produce more organic, or truly organic, beer.

Luckily, the tides have turned, and within a few years the beer-drinking public will be able to rest easy knowing that their organic beer of choice really is a product of organic, sustainable agriculture. Thanks to increased growing of organic hops and pressure from Organic Consumers Association, and the American Organic Hop Grower Association, hops will be off the list and as of 2013 all certified organic beer will have to be truly organic.

This is especially good news for the organic-conscious consumer  who has been spending a little extra on organic beers, when really, they're probably not that much different than conventional beverages. However the good news is tempered by another worry: how much of what we think is organic, and choose precisely because it's organic, not really organic? Check out the official list put out by the NOSB to see exactly what isn't so organic about your organic food choices.

photo credit: micromatic