Beer becomes eco-friendly

By Melissa Silverberg

Environmentally conscious beer drinkers can now combine their two interests with more types of organic beer available in the market, including products from small brewing companies and large corporations, like Anheuser-Busch.

Organic beer is brewed with wild hops and barley grown on organic, smaller farms that do not use chemical pesticides or fertilizers. In spite of the different ingredients, the beer is brewed the same as any other beer, said Jon Cadoux, founder of Peak Organic Brewing Company.

“When you buy organic products, it’s a win-win situation. They taste better, they are good environmentally and socially, and it’s a better purchase,” Cadoux said.

In 2006, Anheuser-Busch released two organic beers, Wild Hop lager beer and Stone Mill pale ale. Both beverages are certified as 100 percent organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to information provided by the company.

Anheuser-Busch is the producer of Budweiser, Michelob, Beck’s, Boddingtons and Busch beers as well as the Bacardi Silver line of rum, Monster energy drinks and many other beverages.

A spokesperson from Anheuser-Busch was not available for further information.

While Anheuser-Busch does not comment on sales figures, Cadouxsaid “sales have been growing like crazy.”

Peak Organic is distributed around the country in restaurants, high-end liquor and wine stores, and health food stores such as Whole Foods Market. They average $2.5 million in sales annually, he added.

Organic beer may cost a little more for a six-pack than the average commercial brand, and it costs about 10 percent more to produce, Cadoux said.

“The cost is a no-brainer,” he said. “You used to have to pay a higher price for organic, but it’s getting less and less all the time.”

Although Peak Beer is not found at Corkscrew Wine Emporium in Urbana, the store carries several imported organic beers and wines, said employee, Johnny Ride. Almost all of the wines and breweries available at the emporium use organic practices in their production, even if they are not certified organic, Ride added.

“I think there is a loyal clientele looking for organic products,” he said. “There are a lot of people in Urbana who shop at the Farmers’ Market and believe in organically grown products.”

Den Liquors Discount Liquor store in Champaign does not carry organic beers, said employee Jim Randall.

Other hard liquor companies are joining the organic movement as well, including Rain Vodka, which has met the guidelines for the National Organic Program of the Department of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture guidelines specify that the grain used in making the vodka must be grown without pesticides or herbicides and processed with only approved chemicals, according to the company’s Web site.

Taste of the beverage may be just as important to consumers as being environmentally friendly.

“The organic movement is great,” said Cadoux. “But it’s really all about taste.”