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Craft Beer and Organic Beer: Get Hoppy

Sales of organic beer are bubbling over

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Hoist an organic beer or a craft beer and celebrate the brewmaster's craft.

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Beer is proof, Benjamin Franklin said, that God loves us and wants us to be happy. And many beer makers are now brewing craft beer and organic beer in the belief that they will not only make us happy, but make the planet happy, too.

It's not just the green movement that's motivating brewers to jump into the organic food market. According to the Brewers Association, sales of craft beer -- including organic beer -- continues to grow at a heady pace even as other segments of the economy are going flat. During the first six months of 2008, the market for craft beers grew 11% over the same period in 2007.

Natural Beer vs. Organic Beer: What's the Difference?

In order to be labeled "USDA Organic," beer must be made with ingredients free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Because hops -- the ingredient that gives beer its tangy aroma and flavor -- are difficult to grow organically, a loophole allows brewers to use non-organic hops in beer that still earns the USDA Organic label.

Unlike organic beer, the term "natural beer" is strictly a marketing term that has little or no real meaning. All beers contain some natural ingredients, so buy organic if you're looking for a healthier beer that contains fewer synthetic ingredients and is better for the environment.

But How Does Organic Beer Taste?

But how do these organic brews taste? "There are gold medal-winning organic beers," says Chris O'Brien, beer blogger and author of Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World. "As far as quality is concerned, there's no trade-off."

Matt Simpson, self-described "beer sommelier," agrees: "Many folks will affirm that organic beers are tastier than similar styles produced non-organically. And having tasted quite a few myself, I can tell you this sentiment is quite accurate. So not only are they healthier for the planet and your body, they're often more flavorful."

Though European brewers have been making superb organic beer for years, the following short list includes only American brewers of craft beer and organic beer, as these are more likely to be available locally in the United States:

Otter Creek Brewery

Wolaver's

Lakefront Brewery

Hopworks Urban Brewery

Bison Brewing Company

Snake River Brewing Company

New Belgium Brewing

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