Tag Archives: organic

The Session #13: Organic Beer

session-logo-med.jpgIt’s the first Friday of the month, which means that I should be drinking an organic beer – since that’s the theme of this month’s Session as chosen by Chris O’Brien over at Beer Activist – and then writing a post about it.

But I’m not.

It’s not that I’m anti-organic. My wife and I actually eat a fair bit of organic food – although like at least of one the other folks contributing this month, organic certification isn’t always as important to us as is getting our food from local (where possible) and sustainable sources. Especially considering that national organic standards for Canada are still being phased in, so the certification and labelling standards currently being used up here are a bit of a mish-mash.

Still, the idea of organic beers interests me, and I like to try them when I come across them, but in Ontario, that doesn’t happen very often. As I’ve lamented innumerable times in the past, the selection of out-of-province craft beers at the LCBO is pitiful, and very few Ontario breweries have made the move to using organic ingredients. The only purely organic beer (i.e. all organic ingredients, including organic hops imported from New Zealand) that is widely available in the province is Mill Street Organic Lager, which is a decent mainstream pale lager, but hardly worthy of a spotlight post, IMO.

Beyond that, the only other locally available options that come to mind are the Cream Ale, Dark Ale and Hefe-Weissbier from Muskoka Brewery, all of which were re-labelled as “organic, premium & pure” a couple of years ago (although like many “organic” beers, I believe that they use organic malts but non-organic hops). All three of them are nice enough beers, but I generally try to find something new and different for the Sessions.

And then a couple of weeks ago, things looked like they might work out nicely when Steve Beauchesne from Beau’s Brewery out near Ottawa mentioned on Bar Towel that he’d be coming to Toronto on Wed. March 5th, and would be happy to bring along some beer for anyone who would like to meet up with him. Their flagship brand, Lug Tread Lagered Ale, is a double rarity in Ontario: it’s a Kölsch, and it’s also organic (aside from the hops). I’ve tried it a couple of times before, and it’s a solid and sessionable beer.

What really got my attention, however, was Beau’s new seasonal: Bog Water Dirty Brown Ale, a unique brew made with organic malt, spring water, and wild bog myrtle (or sweet gale), essentially making it a 100% organic beer. A perfect choice for the Session, and perfect timing as well.

But it just wasn’t meant to be, I guess, as I came down with a brutal flu that has had me holed up at home and avoiding beer in favour of juice and tea for the whole week. I’m feeling slightly better today, but still far from 100%, so it’ll likely be another day or two before I’ll be ready to crack a beer of any sort, organic or not.

There is a happy ending, though, as Steve still brought some beer for me and passed it along to Troy of the Great Canadian Pubs & Beer blog, so assuming he doesn’t drink it on me, I should be able to give it a try soon enough.

In the meantime, Chris has a round-up of today’s Session posts over on his blog, and I’ve got a pot of tea (organic, even!) in the kitchen with my name on it…

Beer of the Week – Duchy Originals Organic Ale

This article was originally written in April 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in September 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after the Taste T.O. blog was shut down and taken offline.

I had a bit of trepidation about this week’s column, as I’m coming off of a battle with a nasty stomach bug, and wasn’t sure if I was up for a beer yet. But my weekly mission cannot be denied, so I pulled my two latest purchases from the fridge: Duchy Originals Organic Ale and Atlantic au Pineau, both part of the LCBO’s Spring seasonal beer release that is starting to trickle into stores. Reading the label on the latter, I saw that it’s an ale infused with Pineau des Charentes, an apertif made from Congac and grape juice – a little too esoteric for my barely recovered belly. So it went back in the fridge for next week’s instalment, and I was left with Duchy by default.

Duchy Originals is a line of organic products created in 1990 by Prince Charles, who has long been a proponent of whole & natural foods and traditional farming methods. The beer is a Bitter that is brewed under contract by Wychwood Brewery (best known for beers like Fiddler’s Elbow and Hobgoblin) using exclusively organic hops and malt sourced from farms in Britain. And like all Duchy Originals products, profits are donated to The Prince’s Charities.

It’s a very noble endeavour, so I wanted to like the beer before I even poured it. Thankfully, I did. It’s got a nice brilliant copper colour with a good sized white head, so it scores points for appearance. The aroma is decent, with some solid maltiness, and notes of caramel and orange peel. Body is good for the style, with soft carbonation. The flavour is pleasant and well balanced, with malt and grain notes off the top, some orange-candy sweetness in the middle, and a grassy hoppiness to finish.

There’s nothing especially unique about it, but it’s certainly a pleasant and quaffable beer for those who enjoy UK ales. I just can’t help but think that if it weren’t for the organic hook, it wouldn’t stand out much from other quality UK imports, especially given the slightly higher price point (LCBO 26971, $3.60/500 mL). But it’s not often that we see an organic beer besides Mill Street Organic Lager on LCBO shelves, and it’s for a good cause, so I say it’s worth the splurge for a couple of bottles.