Celebrate Earth Day: Save Water, Drink Green Beer
“Save Water, Drink Beer” may be a silly phrase that’s plastered on t-shirts and beer mugs, but depending on which beer you’re drinking, there’s actually some truth to it.
This Earth Day, City Tap House will be serving up five beers from eco-friendly breweries in Vermont, and I had the chance to taste them ahead of the event. I sat down with Dave Donaldson, the beverage director at City Tap House, and Patrick Wandres, a representative from Long Trail Brewing Company to learn more about the beers and the breweries.
Patrick explained that Long Trail Brewing Company, Otter Creek Brewing Company and Wolaver’s Fine Organic Ales (all located in Vermont) go to great lengths to ensure that they are reducing their environmental impact in the production of their beers. It’s not like anyone needs an excuse to drink more beer, but hey, if it’s helping the planet…
Wolaver’s Fine Organic Ales are ahead of the pack when it comes to planet-happy beer. They are the first Vermont brewery to be certified under the non-GMO project, North America’s only third party verification and labeling for non-GMO products. They’re so proud of this distinction that they removed the logo from their bottlecaps and replaced it with the non-GMO stamp of approval!
Wolaver’s uses only organic ingredients (they’re the first certified organic brewery in the US), and they try to source locally whenever possible. Most notably, their fall seasonal pumpkin ale features local Vermont pumpkins, and their summer & spring seasonal Wildflower Wheat (one of the beers we tasted!) uses Vermont honey.
Long Trail and Otter Creek also use an impressive number of brewing techniques that are low-impact. For instance, Long Trail uses well water at the brewery, and since their source is limited, they make every effort to use less water. This includes condensing steam back to hot water to allow it to be reused in the brewing process. The use of well water is also part of their strong Vermont identity. (As Patrick described it, a bunch of hippies brewin’ beer!)
Long Trail and Otter Creek offer their spent hops and yeast to local farmers as a source of alternative fertilizer, and their spent grains are used to feed cows at local dairies. They also use methane renewables from Green Mountain Power Company – as Patrick put it, they provide fuel to produce methane and they receive methane for fuel! A different kind of methane cycle, if you will.
Both Long Trail and Otter Creek use recycled paper for their labeling and packaging, as well as recycled glass bottles. They are also moving toward canning, which is more eco-friendly because aluminum is much easier to repurpose as future cans. But not to worry, beer-enthusiasts. Dave Donaldson says that if the right type of aluminum is used, it doesn’t affect the flavor of the beer. In fact, it keeps it even fresher than bottles because it prevents light from affecting the product. Cans are also in line with the brands’ hiker mentality (“Take a Hike” is Long Trail’s slogan), as they are much lighter and more convenient to transport.
So, I heard the breweries talk the talk, but could they hop the hop? (Pun most definitely intended.) We got to tasting to find out.
Wolaver’s summer and spring seasonal brew was first in the flight. The Wildflower Wheat is an unfiltered wheat ale made with locally sourced Vermont honey and organic chamomile flowers. Patrick called it the “deck beer,” best paired with a few friends and some sunshine. I could definitely taste the sweetness on the nose, but it was still very light and not overpoweringly syrupy. I wouldn’t mind enjoying a few of these on a deck on a sunny afternoon.
Next, a brew that forgot it was supposed to be an IPA: Otter Creek’s summer seasonal, Fresh Slice. This is a white IPA, emphasis on the white. I’m really not a fan of IPAs, but the hoppy flavor in this beer was subtle enough that I actually really enjoyed it! A very citrusy aroma, but a flavor profile that’s a mixture of wheat, yeast and banana (weird, I know!). The hops are almost a crisp, tart afterthought.
Of course, we had to try a true IPA. The Backseat Berner is Otter Creek’s first year-round IPA, and with an alcohol content of 7%, it’s not messing around. This American style brew features a blend of west coast hops: Citra, Simcoe and Cascade, and you can totally tell. It has a lovely piney smell and taste, and of course, is very hoppy. The flavor is interesting, but as a non-IPA-lover, Patrick could tell from my expression that this one wasn’t my personal favorite. For all the IPA-lovers out there (and goodness knows there are a lot of you!), this would definitely suit your fancy.
*Adorable side note about the name: Per Otter Creek’s website, the Backseat Berner is named after Brewmaster Mike Gerhart’s 150 pound Bernese mountain dog, Oslo. Like Oslo, this beer is designed to be your everyday companion for life’s adventures.
Then, we tasted my favorite of the bunch: Long Trail’s double altbier, The Double Bag. At 7.2% ABV, this brew is the most alcoholic of all. The word “alt” means old in German and high in Latin, so according to Dave, it’s debated whether an altbier was thusly named because of it’s old-world style or it’s high alcohol content. This brew is big-bodied, incredibly smooth and has a caramel flavor and finish, thanks to the amber-roasted malt used in brewing. All around delicious!
The final beer that will be on tap at City Tap House on Earth Day is Long Trail’s spring seasonal beer, Stand Out. Long Trail has already sold out of bottles, so we didn’t get to taste it. However, it’s described as a renewal of the classic American pale ale, with pronounced herbal and citrus notes. It features Equinox hops, which are known as a home brewer’s hops because it’s difficult to get a hold of large quantities of this particular variety. You can taste it for yourself next Wednesday!
Dave explained that when choosing a series of beers to showcase for Earth Day, these three Vermont breweries were the obvious choice, given their commitment to eco-friendly practices. These specific brews fit the brewing trends for the season and are perfect for patio drinking.
City Tap House will only have 1 keg of each variety, so it’s likely that they will only be available on tap for one day. Long Trail representatives will be at the restaurant on April 22nd giving away limited edition glassware with a packet of Spruce seeds. Anyone who purchases one of the five Earth Day beers will receive a free glass and they can plant their very own Spruce tree!
Long Trail is hosting similar events throughout the mid-Atlantic and northeast regions, and their goal in handing out the Spruce seeds is to plant 10,000 trees in honor of Earth Day.
Next Wednesday, save water, drink green beer!
City Tap House is located at 901 9th Street, NW. The event will take place on Wednesday, April 22nd from 11 am to midnight.