Organic beer industry flourishes
By Mason Walker, Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
Volunteers at 2009 NAOBF
With Oregon leading the charge, sales of organic beer have more than doubled since 2005 with $41 million in "green" brew sold in the U.S. last year.
That achievement will be highlighted starting Friday with the 6th annual North American Organic Brewers Festival — a three-day celebration of certified organic beer and sustainable living practices. The festival, founded and organized by Roots Organic Brewing owner Craig Nicholls, will take place in North Portland's Overlook Park.
The event has witnessed steady growth since its inception, with over 15,000 people attending last year. This year, the festival is looking to expand its influence beyond just beer. "We hope to reach out to more families this year," said Nicholls, citing the inclusion of more educational and kid-friendly activities to foster a more sustainable lifestyle.
Since the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) formally adopted organic standards in 2002, organic beer has seen impressive growth in terms of volume and revenue. In 2009, the organic beer sector more than doubled the $19 million in sales reported just four years prior in 2005.
A lot of that growth can be attributed to Oregon efforts. In 2002, Nicholls asked the local craft brewing community an important question: "How do we keep Portland on the cutting edge of brewing?" An informal "symposium" gathered at Portland's Lucky Lab Brewery, and discussions led to the new potential of certified organic beers. Within the next few years, brewers across Oregon were marketing organic versions of favorite craft beer styles.
The standards for USDA organic certification include two main elements; at least 95 percent of the ingredients in a product must be organically grown (without chemical pesticides or agents), and no genetically engineered ingredients can be used. Since water and salt can't be classified as organic, they are excluded from consideration.
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