What tastes better than a glass of cold beer after a long day? How about a glass of cold organic beer you brewed yourself? A money saver and fun DIY project for the whole family (or at least the 21-and-up members of the family), making beer at home is a satisfying and delicious pastime. Not surprisingly, home brewing also offers several compelling environmental advantages over buying your ale from the store:
Organic all the way: Like pesticide-free produce and meat, organic beer production (which debuted in America in the 1990s) is on the rise. The industry has grown enough to warrant its own annual gathering, the North American Organic Brewers Festival in Portland, Ore., which celebrates the best organic brewers from across the continent.
Still, the vast majority of beer companies don't use organic ingredients. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are commonly employed in producing barley and hops, the top ingredients in many ales. Home brewing ensures that your hops, barley, wheat and any other ingredients you ultimately drink are certified organic -- and that equals healthy beer for you and the planet.
Lower carbon footprint: A fizzy head of carbonated foam on a glass of beer is a good thing -- but the carbon dioxide associated with shipping bottles, cans and kegs of beer from that cool little microbrewery (or large conglomerate) across the country is not. Some beer companies, such as the Japanese brand Sapporo, have actually started labeling their cans with a carbon footprint tag to raise consumer awareness. But the best way to ensure your beer doesn't have a diesely aftertaste is still to brew it yourself at home.
No excess packaging: According to EPA reports, 10.9 million tons of glass containers and 1.4 million tons of aluminum cans were thrown away in the United States in 2005. While beer bottles and cans only accounted for a portion of that total waste, cutting down on packaging is another good reason to avoid grabbing a six-pack from the grocery store. Home brewing allows the brewer to reuse glass bottles and growlers over and over, and lessens the need for cardboard caddies.
Jumping onto the home-brewing bandwagon doesn't mean you should never drink store-bought beer again. There are simply too many amazing microbreweries doing great (and delicious) work in America, and supporting their craft is just as important as supporting the work of local farmers or food producers. On an interesting side note, some entrepreneurial farmers have even added their own homebrew or other locally produced beers to their community supported agriculture (CSA) shares. Vegetables and beer -- what else do you need?
So go on and keep drinking those tasty organic and local microbrews. But if you get the urge to give home brewing a try, check out this article from GreenYour. It includes links to several beer-making starter kits that will teach you the basics and serve as your guide until brewing your own suds becomes as easy as drinking them.