07 March 2008


I was a little disheartened when organic beers was chosen as this month's Session topic. I've had quite a few organic beers over the course of this blog and very few have been memorable. To the best of my knowledge, Ireland has only ever produced one organic beer: a lager in Celtic Brew's late Finian's range. I don't remember much about how it tasted, just that it was gassy as hell and a bugger to pour. There are some real stinkers from Britain, like Honey Dew, Whitstable Bay and Lomond Gold, though redemption comes in the form of St Peter's Best and a number of beers from the Marble Brewery in Manchester.

New Zealand's Green Man Bitter stands out as the first organic beer I tried and actually liked. It seems that most of the organic hops we get in these parts come from Down Under and this beer uses them in spades. New Zealand also provides the green for the beer I'm actually reviewing for this Session: Broughton's Angel Lager -- not something I'd be running to try normally, but the only organic beer I could find that I hadn't already tried.

Leaving prejudice and apprehension aside, I'm rather enjoying it. It's a dark gold colour and every bit as crisp and dry as one would expect this style to be. There's plenty more, however: a heavy aley body for a start, and an interesting hoppy spice which leans towards a mediciney bitterness. This runs in parallel with some sweet malt and diacetyl butterscotch notes. There's a lot to this, which is always good to find in a pale lager, not to mention in an organic beer

All that said, I have to wonder what the point of the organicness is. There's nothing in the flavour that couldn't be achieved with non-organic ingredients and I can't help thinking Mother Earth would prefer us to use chemically enhanced Hallertau from local German farms instead of flying nature's own from the other side of the world. The overall environmental benefits of most of the organic beers we get is questionable.

If it's not going to save the world and doesn't taste any better, why are we doing organic beer? Could it be that the Soil Association badge is just another marketing gimmick to appeal to a certain sort of drinker?


  1. Some good points made there Beer Nut.

    I was amused to read a few weeks back that someone was claiming that their thinner wine bottles were more ecologically sound as they required less energy to make. It made me wonder if the energy saving was enough to offset the fact that the bottle of wine was shipped in from Australia. Would we not be better off with a French wine in a regular bottle that could be re-used?

    I hate the way companies have turned the whole "green" thing into a marketing ploy it's all just a massive scam to part fools from their money!

  2. Well put, buy local seems to make much more sense.

    Honey Dew is a beer I just can't abide and I am usually a Fullers fan (Discovery frozen or not is also on my avoid list). From what I recall of Honey Dew it was cloyingly sweet. Which says a lot as I tolerate sweeter beer more than most.

    That being said I do enjoy Waggledance and I have heard many describe it as a sticky mess!

  3. Totally agree about the ecological side. I remember talking about Whitstable Bay with a Shepherd Neame landlord, and he was explaining how the hops had to come from New zealand to meet Soil Association requirements. This was a few years ago, and I think there are now organic hops available in Kent. But it seemed extremely counterproductive to reject the local product for something from the other side of the world.

  4. Hhhm I cant think of anything good about diacetyl in a lager.

    I think you must have fluked a good sample of Green Man Best Bitter (abit cheeky calling an altbier best bitter) as its usually thin, worty, with odd grain astringency notes.

  5. I would just like to point out in defence of my nations exports that much of our agricultural produce does actually use less carbon even with the shipping to the northern hemisphere due to the less intensive farming used.

    Still that doesn't count for hops I suspect.