Brewing With Organic Malt
What does it really mean to use organic brewing malt, or to make a beer with organic ingredients? While I’ve never really been super gung-ho about brewing exclusively with organic grains, doing the research and really taking a closer look at what goes into brewing more organic, it can definitely have some benefits. In this age of trying to eat only organic veggies and really realizing what goes into growing organic crops, I think it’s definitely worth understanding the difference and what sets these grains apart.
What Makes Grains Organic?
As I’m sure you’ve noticed by browsing through our website, we exclusively carry Briess Organic products for grain. It’s not that other maltsters do a poor job of making organic malts, it’s just that we’ve had the opportunity to brew extensively with Briess malts, and trust both their quality and dedication to maintaining that quality.
When we decided to bring on their organic line, we really did our research. We liked that Briess was the first US maltster to take the steps to certify their facilities to produce organic malts, and felt that we could get behind that. But what does that really mean? How is being a facility certified to produce organic ingredients really different from a typical malting facility?
Well, let’s start with how it’s grown. Obviously, there have to be some differences that start in the field to account for both the elevated quality and elevated price point of these malts. These differences are what make using these malts worth it!
First and foremost, let’s take a look at what organic farming really looks like. While most of us aren’t deep in the agricultural pursuits of organics, there are a couple of things that USDA Certified Organic products assure us. That the farmers aren’t using environmentally detrimental pesticides like glyphosate (Round Up, if we must call out a brand), and that only the highest of quality kernels make it to the malting floor.
Now, just those two simple examples don’t seem like a lot, but traditionally farmers use these tools, and other chemically created ones, to ensure that their crops aren’t decimated by insects and disease. If you think about it, removing these tools means that the potential for the harvest is drastically reduced.
While it’s not contested that many of these tools can be environmentally detrimental, these are common practices in agriculture, and to farm organically means significantly less yield and product to bring to market, hence the elevated price.
The cool part is you really notice a difference in both the quality and flavor of the malt! Don’t believe me? Try it! It’s absolutely uncanny, and I really think that everyone should try it at least once.
Another viable difference is the actual varieties of barley grown. They are non-GMO, or genetically modified, and usually are less susceptible to pests and disease, which makes for a more viable crop come harvest time. While it’s no substitute for using tons of pesticides to control the growing environment, it is smart farming, which should be acknowledged.
Want to learn more (I absolutely expect you to visualize the Starship Troopers movie here)? Look up the National Organic Program, and you can read more about environmental impact and organic certification for your favorite malts.
So Why Should I Brew With Organic Malt?
So this is the crux, right? Why should I brew with organic malt instead of normal malted grains? The simple answer is that organic malts are delicious and super high quality, but that can be said of many malts. The more complicated answer is the same as why you would buy the organic celery at the grocery store instead of the non-organic celery.
In theory, while the dedication to quality is always high with most malted grain produced for brewing, organic malts provide a highest quality product, which is reflected in the flavor of the finished beer.
Agricultural products in the United States that want to carry organic standards will generally show the USDA Organic Seal to prove that they were produced, from farm to table as it were, with the highest quality and standards in mind. While these certifying agents are an extra step, and require more specialized facilities to produce, the malts coming out of the other end are generally spectacular, and worth trying, if only to see the difference!
Other Organic Ingredients
It’s no surprise that organic producers make more than just organic malts. There are organic hops out there, although they represent a much smaller part of the market, as well as organic yeasts. As a matter of fact, Imperial Yeast produces only organic yeast, growing their strains up with only organic products.
There are even stellar craft beers out there that are made using only organic ingredients, which is huge considering the cost and availability of certified ingredients.
So try your next beer or your favorite flagship with organic malt and see if you can taste the difference! Let us know in the comments below about your experience brewing with organic malt! If you’re looking to get started, brew up our OrganicFest, a tried and true recipe kit!
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