The Session #13: Organic Beer

The SessionIt’s the first Friday of the month, so here in the beer blogging world that means it’s time for The Session! Also informally known as "Beer Blogging Friday", it’s when bloggers—beer and otherwise—around the web all come together to write about a particular theme, the results of which will be compiled in a giant uber-post by that month’s host (who also picks the topic for the month).

In fact, this month marks the one year birthday of The Session! To that end, a tip of the hat to Stan Hieronymus, who came up with the idea of the Session and ably launched it a year ago with Stouts as the theme. Cheers!

This month’s topic and hosting duties comes to us from Chris O’Brien, the Beer Activist: Organic Beer.

Only beers verified by independent certifiers as meeting the legal organic standards are allowed to bear the USDA Certified Organic logo (the one up there to the left). Lots of brewers use Certified Organic malt and/or hops but have not had their facilities and processes certified. Legally and in practical fact these beers are not organic and are prohibited from being marketed as organic. But for this Session, it’s up to you to decide what to count as organic. Feel free to comment on beers that someone just tells you are organic, but be aware that just because someone has good intentions and seems trustworthy doesn’t mean that their beer is in fact organic.

Green Lakes Organic AleGreen Lakes Organic Ale, 12-ounce bottleFor me, at the risk of (as I’ve said elsewhere) turning my Session posts into "all Deschutes, all the time", this was a no-brainer: in an interesting bit of fortuitous timing, Deschutes Brewery just recently released their first certified organic beer: Green Lakes Organic Ale. Moreover, as you’ll notice from the link, they just went public with the announcement that Green Lakes has joined their line-up of year-round beers available in 12-ounce bottles; previously, it was a seasonal, one of their "Bond Street Series" in 22-ounce bombers.

That’s the version I reviewed. You can see the image of the 22-ounce bottle there on the left, and the new 12-ounce one on the right. (And, a disclaimer: I also just received several of these new 12-ounce bottles from the Brewery as part of the PR on their release. Haven’t drank any of those yet.)

Green Lakes is a classic American Amber Ale, and at 5.2% alcohol, very easy to drink and sessionable. More importantly, it is, as I said, certified organic:

After working with Oregon Tilth for nearly six months, Deschutes Brewery received organic certification for its 50 barrel brew house and can now brew tasty organic ales for year-round enjoyment.

Fish need cool clean water. So do you. That’s why we sourced Salmon-Safe certified Sterling hops for our first organic beer. The way these flavorful, rich hops are grown makes sure that streams are shaded and there is not runoff to nearby waterways. That way the rivers stay cool and clean for migrating salmon. Not only is our Green Lakes beer organic, it helps protect our rivers as well.

To read more about Green Lakes Organic Ale being the first beer brewed with Salmon-Safe certified hops click here.

USDA OrganicSo, my tasting notes:

Appearance: Nice reddish copper color that catches the light like a shiny new penny. Two gorgeous fingers of creamy, rocky head—very light tan.

Smell: Sweet malts, rich with a hint of sugar and syrup. Beets in the sugary sense… hops are spicy and Crystal-like, mellow and floral. Tasty-smelling.

Taste: Hops are the first note—earthy, with a peppery spice note, herbal and nicely bitter—but not overly so. A well-balanced red malt character follows closely behind, sweet and with a tang of roasted malt. A little dry astringency there. Very drinkable, nicely sweet despite the dry notes.

Mouthfeel: Medium-to-full-bodied… dry enough to be refreshing but leaves almost a sugary residue in the aftertaste—which is pleasant and leaves you reaching for more.

Overall: The American Amber style is one of my favorites—malty and sweet and firm-bodied, with hops but not too many hops—and Green Lakes fits that bill in spades. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first opened up a bottle—so many breweries these days interpret "American Amber" to mean "highly hopped"—but I was very, very pleased with this beer.

On BeerAdvocate, it scores a letter grade of A-. On RateBeer, it scores 3.43 out of 5 and is in their 78th percentile.

Start looking for this to appear on the shelves next to Deschutes’ other year-round beers!


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