Pulling Up Roots: Last Call at Roots Organic Brewing

July 18, 2010

According to The Oregonian, Roots Organic Brewing has closed its doors.

I’ve twice attempted to visit this organic brewpub. But my timing was always bad. Each attempt was met with closed doors. Maybe this bad luck was a sign of things to come. There were actually people in the brewhouse both times but they would not talk to me or let me in. So I never got to experience what one Portland, Oregon local described as the place where he met the best friends of his life.

In 2005, owner and brewer Craig Nicholls opened what the company website claims was Oregon’s first all-organic brewpub. (Strangely the website homepage still says “Now Open for Lunch Weekdays 11:30-2:00”). After five years of producing organic and herbally-inspired brews, the small brewery and pub has decided “it was time to stop the bleeding and cut our losses.”

The Oregonian article says the demise was caused by a combination of problems typical to small businesses, including the recession, under-capitalization and bad weather. However, Roots seems to be an outlier in this regard. Although the restaurant business is certainly struggling in this economy, craft beer overall continues to show double digit growth, and brewpubs in particular are still one of the strongest elements within the restaurant industry.

Nicholls also runs the North American Organic Brewers Festival, which he reportedly intends to continue. Seven Bridges, the organic brewing supply company I part own, made the trip for the festival last year to display our organic brewing kits and meet some of the homebrewers and commercial brewers that buy our goods. Let’s hope this great spotlight on organic brewing doesn’t suffer the same fate as Roots.


America’s Original Organic Beer Is Hitting the Long Trail

February 20, 2010

It became official last November. Two of Vermont’s oldest craft breweries are coming together. Long Trail Brewing Co. is purchasing Otter Creek Brewing Co.

Otter Creek has produced the Wolaver’s line of organic beers since 2002 when the Wolaver family bought the brewery and Morgan Wolaver took hold of the reins. I can’t find a public statement from Wolaver and a query to one of Otter Creek’s sale s reps only yielded a press release. I’m so curious about Morgan’s reasons for selling, but the result should be fine. Long Trail has a long history in Vermont and there are some indications that they have an environmental commitment. Their ECOBrew website describes some of their environmental initiatives. Most of it is fairly commonplace activity at breweries these days but it is good customer education.

Mike Gerhart, formerly of Dogfish Head Brewing, came on board as Otter Creek’s new head of brewing last year and he has been cranking out some fine new brews. Check out this video in which Mike talks about Otter Creek’s commitment to organic brewing and supporting small farmers.

Takome Park Organic Beer Tasting So Successful Organizers already Planning for Next Year

October 21, 2009

beerfests102109_rgbbLast Saturday I helped organize the first, and what will now be annual, Takoma Foundation Organic Beer Tasting fundraiser.

We had organic beers on tap from Gordon Biersch and Capitol City Brewing, and more in bottles from Wolaver’s. Everything was gone by the end of the event. Organizers say about 150 people attended, which means after you add in the sponsorships, the event raised over $6,000 for local community projects.

Next year I’m looking forward to inviting a couple other local brewers to make organic beers for the event. I’d like to get Rock Bottom and Flying Dog involved. And we might have one or two new local brewpubs in operation by then so I’d like to get them to brew organic for this too. Of course, my secret hope is that they will brew organic once and then be convinced to make organic beers all the time!

Here’s more coverage from the Gazette.

Washington D.C. Organic Beer Mini-Festival

September 10, 2009

The first (mini) organic beer festival on the east coast? Yep!

I’ve joined forces with the Takoma Foundation to help organize what I think is the first organic beer festival on the east coast. It’s kind of a mini-festival – we’ve only got three organic beers. And the event can only handle about 100 people. So it’s really more like a private tasting of a few select organic beers.

Capitol City Brewing is bringing an organic Belgian Tripel. The new brewer at the Rockville Gordon Biersch is bringing either a weizenbock or a keller bier. And Wolaver’s is bringing their organic oatmeal stout.

Save the date. Tickets are $35 at the door. OrganicBeerFestival

What: Organic Beer Mini-Festival
When: Saturday, October 17, 4-7pm
Where: The Cady Lee historic mansion in Takoma Park – right next to the Takoma metro station on the corner of Piney Branch and Eastern Avenue.
Cost: $35
Why: Drink organic beer. Raise money for the Takoma Foundation.

Drinking the Chesapeake

July 21, 2009

ScottKimballScott Kimball, assistant brewer at Coastal Brewing Company in Delaware, emailed to say “I recently read your book …  and I’ve been following your blog as well and felt inspired to start my own blog on growing hops and barley at home in an attempt to produce my own organic beer.”

Wow! Glad to hear how the fermenting revolution is spreading. Check out Scott’s blog over at Drinking the Chesapeake.

Saison Kicks off Capitol City’s New Organic Series

June 9, 2009

On Monday I met a colleague for lunch at Capitol City Brewing on Capitol Hill. This is my favorite of Cap City’s three locations because it is housed in the historic Federal City Post Office and it has a wonderful veranda with tables that have a view of the U.S. Capitol.

So my Monday afternoon was looking bright as I joined my colleague on the veranda where he was already on beer number two. I wasn’t certain we’d be having a beer at lunch, so it was nice to see this question was already answered before I even arrived.

Mike McCarthy, Head of Brewing at Capitol City Brewing Co., shows off his tats in front of a gleaming copper tank.

Mike McCarthy, Director of Brewing Operations at Capitol City Brewing Co., shows off his tats in front of a gleaming copper tank.

The news only got better when the server told me their seasonal beer was an organic saison. Not only is saison one of my favorite beers, especially for a warm spring day, but it was organic!

Two hours and I won’t say how many beers later, we were heading back to the office feeling pretty good.

At 6% ABV, it’s not a huge beer but it’s not really meant for a lunch session either except for the fact that it is so damn drinkable. Slightly sweet medium body with a peppery spiciness and a dry finish — all characteristic of a good saison (though I could have taken a tad more tartness).

I emailed Mike McCarthy, the Director of Brewing Operations, to congratulate him on the new beer and to thank him for brewing organic. Then I recalled that we had actually spoken about organic beer on a couple occasions and I had tried to encourage his interest in trying out some organic ingredients (I recall one particularly wobbly late night at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego last year…). And sure enough, he emailed back confirming that he bought the organic hops for this beer from Seven Bridges (and organic malt from Gambrinus and Weyermann).

What’s more is that this is the first in an ongoing organic series. Once the saison runs dry at the end of June, he’ll put on an organic wit, which will also include some organic coriander, and should pour from July to September. Then it’s an organic trippel from October through December.

It’s hard to convey how excited I am to have a local brewpub serving organic beers on a regular basis. The fact that Mike has chosen three of my favorite beers styles for the organic line must just be the luck of the Irish. I see myself  enjoying many a happy hour on the Cap City veranda in the coming months.

Green Beer Coming From the Tap

March 13, 2009

ma09_coverThere’s green beer coming From the Tap. No, not green food-colored beer. And not from an actual beer tap. I’m referring to the article on ways to be a green beer activist in the current issue of the Brewers Association’s newsletter, From the Tap.

Here’s an excerpt from the intro to the article:

Brewers of every scope and size are implementing new systems, habits and programs to become more environmentally friendly. Here are just a few of the eco-friendly ideas that are currently sweeping the brewing communities. See how you can personally contribute!

Read the whole thing on the BeerTown website right here.

They also published an article from me on organic beer in the March/April 2009 issue of Zymurgy Magazine.