A-B to Brew with Organic Hops

This just in from the desk of Scott Wilson at the LA Times. He says he received a note from Anheuser-Busch saying:

“We have now begun brewing our nationally available organic beers with 100-percent organic hops, although at this time we have a limited amount of organic hops available.”

Consumer demand for true organic beer is clearly strong enough that A-B must have decided they didn’t want to run the risk of losing this market. If the USDA decides against including hops on the national list of products exempt from the organic requirements, then A-B would have had to change their supply to organic hops anyway, or else kill the product line – or at least not call it organic. So they secured the market presence of their product line by quickly procuring organic hops, thus staying a step ahead of USDA action that could come any day.

This proves that their original argument against organic hops was disingenuous. They, and others, claimed that they simply couldn’t get the volume, quality, or variety of organic hops that is required to make their beers. Yet, when push comes to shove, they did just that. The volume may be lower than what they need, but that’s all the more reason to require organic hops in beers labeled organic so that the demand will stimulate a corresponding supply.

Smaller brewers, like Lakefront Brewery, made the commitment to organic hops for their Organic ESB a long time ago. In fact, they are now working with two local farms, near their Milwaukee brewery, to grow their own supply of organic hops right in Wisconsin. A-B’s decision should significantly increase the demand for organic hops, which should in turn help other, smaller organic brewers in the long term by creating a domestic supply of more competitively priced organic hops.

All it took was the clear voice of committed organic consumers to change the behavior of this corporate brewing giant.

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2 Responses to A-B to Brew with Organic Hops

  1. Jess Sand says:

    The main reason A-B switched to all-organic hops is that the deadline to do so came and went. Because the USDA hasn’t voted on the list you’ve been so good about publicizing (they received over 1,000 disgruntled comments during the public comment week!), and because they refused to extend the grace period until they do so, producers must still conform to the NOP list (for now).

    I think it was more a matter of A-B not wanting to risk getting their USDA abel yanked than them listening to consumer demand.

    I do agree, though, that “A-B’s decision should significantly increase the demand for organic hops, which should in turn help other, smaller organic brewers in the long term by creating a domestic supply of more competitively priced organic hops.”

    That, to me, is the key—and the only reason I am relieved that A-B is elbowing their way into the organic game. Like almost everything in life, it can have both positive and negative consequences! Thanks for your coverage on this—you’re one of the few.

    —J.

  2. beeractivist says:

    Jess – thanks for the comments. I agree that A-B surely had business needs first and foremost in their minds. Then again, I doubt the release of the list would have been delayed if all those comments had not been filed. So, in effect, it was a consumer-driven change. Fyi, my column in the next issue of American Brewer magazine will be on this topic. By the way, I just visited your blog – nice!

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