The session: organic beer

session-logo-r-sm.jpgThis month’s Ses­sion is host­ed by the Beer Activist blog, and fea­tures organ­ic beer. Chris O’Brien asks every­one to pub­lish a post relat­ed to organ­ic beer and even allows us to decide what counts as organ­ic – handy, as we’ve nev­er real­ly under­stood the rules in the UK!

We have to say that we’ve been some­what scep­ti­cal about organ­ic beer to date. We’re rea­son­ably open to the idea of organ­ic food, espe­cial­ly as it often (although not always!) means small-scale, local pro­duc­tion with a bit more care for the qual­i­ty of the prod­uct. But we don’t always buy organ­ic, because there are oth­er fac­tors that are more impor­tant to us, like food miles. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant for beer, because there is an extreme­ly lim­it­ed sup­ply of organ­ic hops in the UK, and we know that at least one brew­er imports their hops from New Zealand.

organic2.jpgAnd unlike with some prod­ucts, like meat and cheese, where there is gen­er­al­ly a dis­cern­ably dif­fer­ence in qual­i­ty, we can’t say we’ve ever noticed that organ­ic hops or malt make for a more flavour­some beer. It’s not that organ­ic beer is bad, it’s just that it’s rarely as spe­cial as you think it ought to be. The Beer Nut sum­marised it real­ly well, when he said:

…brew­ers seem con­tent with their Soil Asso­ci­a­tion cer­tifi­cate as a sell­ing point rather than putting the graft into the flavour”

Odd­ly, although we agree with the sentiment,we’ve just tried the beer that prompt­ed his com­ment – Organ­ic ale, from St Peters – and thought it very tasty. It has a light gold­en colour with a sol­id body and good head reten­tion. Aro­ma most­ly malty. By con­trast, the taste was rather on the bit­ter side, but in a crisp refresh­ing way. Slight cit­rusy notes and all in all, a very pleas­ant mix­ture. A very sum­mery recipe, and def­i­nite­ly one we’d drink again, if we could get a bot­tle as fresh as this one.

organic3.jpgDuchy Orig­i­nals Organ­ic Ale is brewed by Wych­wood for the Prince of Wales’ farm at High­grove. We’ve had it before and not been impressed. We thought we’d give it anoth­er go tonight – and we’re still not impressed. It’s drink­able but dull. You get the impres­sion it’s aimed at peo­ple who like buy­ing organ­ic things in classy pack­ag­ing, and who might be put off by strong flavours. Quite a lot like the organ­ic lagers we’ve had in Ger­many, in that respect.

Which brings us to the “dip­py hip­py” school of brew­ing. We’ve had a cou­ple of organ­ic offer­ings in this cat­e­go­ry from small, not-very-slick micro­brew­eries, which have been non­de­script at best and out­right hor­ri­ble at worst. In line with our pol­i­cy of not slag­ging off micro­brew­eries, we’re not going to list them here, espe­cial­ly as the prob­lem may be due to the stor­age and trans­porta­tion of said beers.


organic1.jpgA rather more inter­est­ing option was “bio­hanf­bier” from an Aus­tri­an com­pa­ny called “Bio­hanf Sued”, who seem to spe­cialise in hemp prod­ucts. The beer is a new addi­tion to the range and fea­tures “Bio” bar­ley and “bio” hemp extract. It’s not clear to me (at least not with my begin­ner Ger­man) whether it has hops in at all. Despite this sound­ing like the absolute ulti­mate dip­py-hip­py beer, it actu­al­ly pours, looks and tastes like a “prop­er” lager. We wouldn’t say it was the most excit­ing beer we’d ever tast­ed, but it was tasty and refresh­ing and went down pret­ty quick­ly.

So, we haven’t had our per­cep­tions of organ­ic beer changed by this exer­cise, but it’s nice to know that it’s not all rub­bish.


5 thoughts on “The session: organic beer”

  1. Total­ly con­cur with you on the Duchy Orig­i­nal.

    I feel a lit­tle bit guilty for hav­ing a go at St Peter’s over the Organ­ic Ale now that I’ve had, and thor­ough­ly enjoyed, their Organ­ic Best Bit­ter. I com­mend it to you if you’ve not tried it.

  2. I think St Peters needs to be fresh, oth­er­wise it’s pret­ty dull. We’re now re-apprais­ing our ini­tial (luke­warm) thoughts about their entire range, non-organ­ic as well.

  3. I think most of the organ­ic beers brewed in the UK use hops from here. On the whole I’m not a big fan of our hops .

    You pret­ty much summed up how I feel about organ­ic beer. I was going to do a post which pret­ty much said what you said but ran out of time organ­is­ing last nights Home-brewed Sum­mer Ale Fest. There were no organ­ic beers on.

  4. Inter­est­ing stuff. I’m actu­al­ly close to an organ­ic (well, most of it, any­way) brew­pub-the Mar­ble Arch in Man­ches­ter. Now their beers are very good-bet­ter than most of the draught orgainc fayre that I’ve had. The changes to qual­i­ty over the years have been down to the var­i­ous brew­ers, not the fact that the ingre­di­ents are organ­ic.

    So I have to agree that organ­ic beer seems more about mar­ket­ing than actu­al­ly being bet­ter than “ordi­nary” beer. The lim­i­ta­tions on hop choice, for one, mean that the best “ordi­nary” beer will always beat its organ­ic coun­ter­part.

Comments are closed.