Made for centuries from crops that are well adapted to growing in the UK, beer has the potential to be a locally produced, organic beverage. At present, most beer is not!
The ingredients from locally brewed beer between them may travel as little as 600 miles, whereas beer from a major German brewer could clock up 24,000 miles of transport for ingredients and product.
- On average, non-organic hops are sprayed up to 14 times a year with 15 different pesticides.
- Sustain‘s 1999 publication ‘Bitter harvest, bitter beer‘ is still excellent reading. The good news is that there are now more than 3 organic beers brewed in the UK. CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, provides information and guides to real ale. Organic beer can be ordered online from The Beer Shop, which also sells homebrewing kits for making beers, wines, and other alcoholic drinks. Their own-brand Pitfield beers are also vegan. See online shops for more suppliers.
- Much beer is sold in cans and bottles, which should be recycled whenever possible – use your local bottle and can banks.
- Buying locally brewed draft beer cuts down your beer miles.
- Good, traditional cider is made by a very simple method. It is the fermented juice of the apple, with nothing added and nothing taken away. The Campaign for Real Ale, CAMRA, now also campaigns to promote traditional cider and perry (pear cider).
- Cider is also traditionally made from locally grown fruit: if you buy local cider the transport burdens should be very low indeed.
- Westons produce organic cider as well as alcohol-free sparkling organic drinks.
- As with beer, packaging can be an issue.
- There is a growing interest in drinking and producing perry – the pear equivalent of cider. A National Perry Pear collection is situated in Hartpury, Gloucestershire and includes the Orchard Centre from where courses, talks and tasting take place.
A generation ago, having any wine to drink at all was something of a luxury in the UK. Now the choice on offer is huge – and organic wines, fairly traded wines, and UK-produced wines are getting more and more common.
- The arguments in favour of organic food production apply to wine as well.
- Many organic wines are suitable for vegetarians as well. Some also have low sulphur levels, which is good news for people who are highly sensitive to sulphur.
- Fairly traded wines are increasingly available in supermarkets. See Buy Fair Trade for more sources of information.
- Fruit wines (also known as country wines) and meads can provide a UK-produced alternative, for lower transport impacts.
Organic and fairly trade spirits and liquers are beginning to appear on the market so look out for them. Some of the online shops may sell them.