Thursday, 5 November 2009

5 great organic breweries

People often say that organic beer is boring and dull. More generous souls might say it's inevitably compromised, because the organicness takes priority over the beer being fantastic.

Indeed, it's a bit suspect when the most interesting thing a brewery has to say about its beer is that it's organic. We've all encountered the sad selection of two or three beers in wholefood shops, bought one or more and been underwhelmed.

But there are some breweries making organic beer which is superb; not just "good considering it's organic", or "organic and decent", but beer you'd cross the street to drink whether it were organic or not.

Here are five of them.
  1. Black Isle Brewery, Ross-shire: up in a remote corner of Scotland this outfit produces rich, tasty beers in contemporary packaging using organic ingredients.
  2. Pitfield Brewery, Essex: I've never had a beer from this brewery that was anything less than stunning and their recreations of historical porter and IPA are spectacular.
  3. Marble Brewery, Manchester: Amazing beer and they've just won the Champion Beer of Greater Manchester, which must count for something.
  4. Traditional Scottish Ales, Stirling: formerly Bridge of Allan Brewery, well-made beers for those who prefer their ale on the malty side, and also the makers of Glencoe Wild Oat Stout, outstanding by any criteria.
  5. Brauerei Spezial, Bamberg: world famous for its smoked lager, less well known for taking all its barley from organic farmers in the local region. Barley? Yes, for Spezial is also one of fewer than ten German breweries that still make their own malt.
Here's a interesting short interview with Peter Scholey, former head brewer at Brakspear, in which he clears up a few myths and explains some of the problems involved in making organic ale. Despite the difficulties, the breweries above show that organic beer doesn't have to be mediocre but can be among the very best.

4 comments:

  1. I didn't realise Spezial was an organic brewery. There's one in the town I live in, Pinkus Müller, who I understand turned wholly organic in the early 90s. They don't make a big deal out of it, it's just the way they make them. Quite nice, refreshing beers they are too.

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  2. I didn't realise it either until I read it somewhere by accident. They don't even mention it on their website. Talk about hiding your light under a bushel. But aye, Spezial is what inspired this post; proof that you can make a world classic beer with organic malt.

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  3. There are quite a few decent German organic breweries. Beer is considered a staple food, so even the hair shirt and lentil type of shops need to have some decent beers.

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  4. Agreed, Knut, there are lots of organic breweries making decent beer — but I wanted to spotlight top-notch breweries making absolutely outstanding organic beer. Pinkus Müller as Barry mentioned is one you see a lot in lentil shops, and the beer's good but it didn't blow me away like the ones I listed here.

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