Earth Day isn’t really one of those holidays where everyone stops what they’re doing. Nor is it a holiday that generally encourages beer drinking. But I think it’s a great opportunity, especially in the craft beer community, to reflect on a few things.
Craft beer is, in my opinion, just one part of the much larger slow-food movement, where an emphasis is put on shifting away from global consumerism in favour of local consumption. And while there are certainly craft brewers who are pushing for global distribution, or are dreaming of the day they might be found half-way across the world, the majority of craft beers are localized and enjoyed within close proximity to where the beer is made. Supporting local also goes a long way in terms of community development, and opting for that beer from the brewery in town or that new little restaurant will go a lot further towards creating some type of prosperity locally.
Slow-food and craft beer also put a lot of emphasis on taste, something one might find lacking in more mass-produced products. A lot of love and time go into making artisan products, and I think it’s important to really try to discover the unique qualities that come from this labour and make an effort to try to appreciate them.
Earth Day is also about supporting environmental protection, and choosing food and beer that you know support this cause is a great way to promote Earth health. Not all breweries and beers are the same, and taking a little extra time to read the labels and do some homework on how a beer is made and where the ingredients came from will help you select something that is both tasty and sustainable. Here are some breweries and beers that I think do a great job of promoting Earth-friendly practices:
Big Spruce – Nyanza, Cape Breton, NS
Atlantic Canada’s first all-organic brewery, ingredients are sourced as close to Cape Breton as possible, and the brewery has its own hop-farm surrounding it. All their beers are certified organic, and Big Spruce makes a big commitment to staying local and keeping production sustainable, packaging their beers exclusively in kegs or sold in growlers or “Yappers” (their word) from the brewery.
Barnone – Rose Valley, PEI
Barnone is actually a farm turned farm-brewery where you can wander through the hop bines on the grounds before going to get your growler filled in their barn. An even newer and smaller operation than Big Spruce, Barnone’s distribution is even more limited, rarely going outside PEI. Get it from the source or a few choice pubs on the Island.
Picaroons Traditional Ales – Fredericton, NB
Picaroons has long been committed to supporting local. It’s no secret that Sean Dunbar has gone over and above to support local events in Fredericton and surrounding areas (and by surrounding I mean all over New Brunswick), but newer brewers in the Maritimes almost always mention Sean as having been a great resource and advocate for them as they began and grew. At present he allows Grimross to brew beers using his own facility, not really a business practice one might encounter in another sector. I think Sean really believes in the notion that gets thrown around by a lot of craft breweries these days, that “a rising tide raises all boats,” and I believe it too. Picaroons also produces two certified organic ales, Dooryard Summer Ale (which was released today), and Dark & Stormy Night.
Crannóg Ales – Sorrento, BC
Crannóg was Canada’s first organic brewery, and they operate in much the same manner as does Big Spruce (in fact I would say Big Spruce took a lot of pointers from the folks at Crannóg) – all-draught, localized, on-farm, fully-organic. But rather than American-styled beers they follow a more old-world, Irish-style tradition.
(retrieved from: http://www.crannogales.com/site/farm.php)
Beau’s All Natural Brewing – Vankleek Hill, ON
Beau’s is a pretty big micro-brewery compared to the others on the list, and maybe not as sustainable (not to mention Crannóg and Big Spruce might take issue with the word ‘natural’), but they generally make an effort to reduce packaging with their bottles and use organic ingredients in their beers.
Peak Organic – Portland, Maine
Peak makes all kinds of organic beers using all kinds of local ingredients, sourcing their hops and malt, as well as other ingredients like coffee, chocolate and maple syrup from Maine and Vermont.
Uinta – Salt Lake City, Utah
Uinta is a 100% alternative-energy operating brewery, combining 85% wind power and 15% solar power to create their beers. They were the first business in all of Utah to run exclusively off of wind power (before they installed solar panels) back in 2001.
New Belgium – Fort Collins, Colorado
New Belgium is the third largest craft brewery in North America. It distributes all over the US and can even be found on Southwest Airlines flights. And despite such monumental success, the company remains grounded and seems to be committed to sustainable practices. Last year the company became 100% employee-owned, and the brewery continues to make steps towards being as sustainable as possible. The company is transparent about their environmental goals and shortcomings and the brewery website outlines several areas of sustainability that the company works on. They also host a bike festival promoting biking as an alternate mode of transportation.
There are countless other breweries out there that promote a better Earth, and they’re all worth seeking out. In the end, supporting local is always the better alternative, whether it is organic, natural, or just plain tasty.
So what beers will you be drinking on Earth Day? Let me know below!