Organic beer. As I said in a story not long ago, it kind of sounds like "Amish sex." But beer was made that way for over 5,000 years, and...Amish babies are still made that way. (When I get a good line, I hate to use it only once.)
Organic beer's a phenomenon right now, booming like the rest of the organic market, although there's a bit of a problem sourcing organic hops. That became quite a bit more acute recently when the USDA backed into suddenly requiring all hops in organic beer to be organic -- they were previously allowing some non-organic hops in "organic" beers because organic hops simply weren't available in some varieties -- but that's a huge story, outside the scope of this tasting note (and it's a story I'm getting paid to write elsewhere, so I'm not doing it for free here!).
You can tell a beer is a phenomenon when contract brewing starts. Folks see the opportunity, and they can't wait to slowly raise the money to build a brewery and slowly build a market. They want to get in right away, and that's what Jon Cadoux did. He homebrewed some batches of organic beer, than cut a deal with Shipyard Brewing in Portland to brew up his Peak Brewing beers: an Amber, a Pale Ale, and the Nut Brown I'm drinking right now.
In that piece, there's a great quote from Morgan Wolaver (owner of Otter Creek/Wolaver's, where he brews the Wolaver's line of organic beers) about why people will or won't drink organic beers that applies beautifully to this one. "Is organic beer healthier for you? If you drank the beer over the next 60 years, maybe. It is better for the planet. Benefits in that way trickle all the way back to the farmer. But when you're sitting at the bar, do you really give a shit about the farmer? It has to be a quality beer." Dead on, Morgan: I don't care about who or how it's made: how's it taste?
Jon Cadoux has done okay on that angle here. As I've said many times, brown ale is one of my least favorite craft-type, traditional style. It just doesn't do much for me. But this is tasty stuff, in a laid-back (best-guess ABV is 4.6%), easy-drinking kind of way. It sidesteps the hop issue rather neatly by not going real hoppy (Magic Hat's Orlio IPA, a seasonal release, tasted pretty decent yesterday (I nipped a sip from a bottle I used to make a loaf of beer bread), but more in the pale ale range), and focuses instead on the malty, nutty, cocoa aspects: smart.
Now...would this be my first choice? To be honest, probably never. But that's more a reflection on me: I'm not a brown ale fan, and I'm not really what you'd call 'crunchy' or green. But if I got one of the e-mails I get fairly often, asking about beers for diabetics, or fatvolk, or vegans, or celiacs, and someone asked me if there were any organic beers...I'd recommend this one without hesitation...for them. Me, I'm looking for an organic pilsner. Anybody know of any?