URGENT: Take Action to Protect Organic Beer

I just learned about this and time is short. A USDA rule change is threatening to put hops on the list of ingredients allowed to be non-organic in beers labeled organic. Take quick action:

1. Submit comments to USDA by midnight EST TONIGHT (Tuesday May 22):

2. Sign the Organic Consumers Association’s petition:

Here’s the text I submitted to USDA. It’s very rough due to the short notice but it makes the point.

I am writing to express my opposition to one of the items included on Docket No. AMS-TM-07-0062, the National Organic Program (NOP) Proposed Amendments to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, specifically hops.

As part owner of a brewing supply company and author of the book “Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World (New Society, 2006),” I strongly feel that beer labeled organic should be required to contain organic hops.

Hops are a basic ingredient in beer. Selling “organic” beer with non-organic hops erodes consumer confidence and the integrity of the organic seal. Furthermore, it is unnecessary. Organic hops are already available and their supply will improve quickly if organic hops are required in organic beer.

Please do not allow hops to be included on the the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

Quickly now, stop reading and click on the links above.


8 Responses to URGENT: Take Action to Protect Organic Beer

  1. Kristen Atkinson says:

    How frustrating! This wasn’t brought to my attention until today. I signed the petition but was not able to submit my comments to the USDA. Please keep us updated.

  2. beeractivist says:

    I know, I wish I had known about it sooner. I posted as soon as I learned about it. I suspect that this won’t be the end of this issue though. I know that several breweries are already advocating for hops to be a required organic ingredient. In the long term I think we’ll achieve that.

  3. RM Karr says:

    I am a complete advocate for all things organic, but my understanding is that organic hops are really not grown in the US, so craft brewers would need to import from New Zealand, etc. How do we choose between “local” or organic? I guess one could argue the requirement to use organic hops may motivate the growing of organic hops in the US.

  4. beeractivist says:

    RM Karr,

    That’s correct. There are currently no commercially available organic hops grown in the US. However, many brewers use imported hops already, and organic hops are now available from Germany, UK, and New Zealand. Ideally, American brewers would have organic hops available from the US. Seven Bridges (www.breworganic) has struggled to get hop growers to try growing organically.

    But the bottom line is that as long as long as the USDA rule exempts hops from needing to be organic, its unlikely any US growers will bother trying. The original rule change would have removed hops form the exemption list, thus creating instant demand for much more organic hops. That increased demand would likely have stimulated the growth of a US supply.

    All in all though, hops are light and compact and comprise only a small fraction of the weight of a beer, which means the environmental footprint created by shipping them is relatively small. So I’ll continue to support organic beers that use imported organic hops and I’ll continue to homebrew with imported organic hops. Eventually the demand will be great enough that some enterprising grower will offering organic hops in the US.


  5. […] Brewery: Organic Beer Should Require Organic Hops The USDA was poised to amend its rules in order to require the use of certified organic hops in beers labeled USDA Certified Organic. But […]

  6. Hummingbird says:


    You say that organic hops are not grown in the U.S., but UCSC has an experimental garden that is growing organic hops there. Evidently quite a bit. Why is it so hard to grow organic hops? I’m growing some in my garden, so I don’t get the difficulty here.

    Can’t we just ask some organic farms to consider growing organic hops?

  7. Hummingbird says:

    BTW, I’ll post later on my experience with growing hops. You need a gardening for beer section in this blog, Chris!

  8. beeractivist says:

    Seven Bridges has tried hard to get farmers to grow organic hops. We got one to try it and he basically failed. I won’t elaborate on the reasons but suffice to say we’re convinced it can be done if someone else was willing. It is not necessarily “easy” to grow a lot of organic hops on a commercial scale but it is “possible.” Lakefront Brewing tells me they are also experimenting with some organic hops in Wisconsin. I think it’s only a matter of time before we have a domestic organic hop source.

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