Don’t Believe Every Label You See – Organic Beer

I tried a really tasty, chocolate stout the other night. It was rich, smooth, and perfect for dessert. It was Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, to be specific. So, I was curious and decided to do some digging. Turns out, beer that is labeled “Organic” is not actually completely organic. Actually, there are several different tiers of organic in the brewing world. In order to gain the label of “100% Organic” a beer must be just that – 100% organic, although added salt and water is not included in this certification process.

For a beer to simply be labeled “Organic” it must contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients (again, not including added salt and water). The reason that remaining 5% is able to get a pass is because some ingredients are not available in high enough quantities to support brewing – and the brewer must be able to prove that. In addition, whatever non-organic ingredients are used in the brewing process must be found on the USDA’s “National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.”

One more label is essential to note…this is the “Made With” label, meaning that there are organic ingredients included in the beer – but a decent amount of the ingredients are not. To be specific, 70% of the ingredients must be organic in order to fall into this category. That other 30% can include non-organically produced agricultural ingredients and any non-agricultural ingredients must be found on that list from the USDA.

Fortunately, I was raised by parents who are very passionate about organically sourced food and products – so, without doing the research for specific details, I had a pretty decent assumption about the meanings behind these various labels. However, for people who have not been quite as exposed to the world of organics as I, these titles could certainly cause a lot of confusion. Personally, I find it a bit unfair to include the word “organic” on a product unless it contains only organic ingredients – but I do understand that the transition to organic can be a frustrating and expensive process. So, for now, I’m giving major kudos to the brewers who invest their time and money into making organic beers for all of us to enjoy. While I believe organic consumption is ideal, I’m not going to limit my drinking to only that. So cheers to all brewers – organic and non-organic alike!


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