How to Choose Green Beer and Wine

By Lori Bongiorno

Whether you're hosting or on the guest list, chances are you'll be shopping for wine and beer this holiday season. Great taste and sustainability are not mutually exclusive.

Here are some suggestions for finding the most planet-friendly options.

Beer:

  • Drink beer from local microbreweries to reduce the amount of fossil fuels used for shipping and support nearby businesses. Read the BeerAdvocate's directory for ratings of breweries, beer stores, and related establishments in your neighborhood
  • Try organic beer. The barley used to brew organic beer is grown without synthetic pesticides, but there's no guarantee that the hops (a perennial plant that adds bitterness and aroma) will be grown organically. That's because the USDA allows producers to use conventionally grown hops if they can't find organic versions. Just a few brands to look for: Peak Organic Brewing Company, Butte Creek Brewing, and Bison Brewery.
  • The greenest thing you can do is make your own organic beer. You'll cut down on packaging and the fossil fuels used for shipping and refrigeration. Brewing your own beer will also save you money. A BeerAdvocate series of articles gives a brief overview, discusses ingredients and styles, and lists equipment you'll need. Shop for supplies and browse recipes at Seven Bridges Cooperative.

Wine:

  • Choose local if you live near good vineyards. For those who don't, check out Grist's helpful map to determine carbon footprint of wine from different parts of the world, or see the original report it's based on. A green line runs roughly from Ohio to Texas. If you live to the east, drink European wines. To the west, choose those made in California or Oregon. Whatever you choose, buy wine from your neighborhood wine shop.
  • Buy organic or biodynamic wines for a guarantee that grapes were grown without the addition of pesticides and other synthetic chemicals.
  • USDA Certified Organic wines do not have added sulfites (which act as preservatives) so take good care of them.
  • Those labeled "Made With Organic Grapes" have small amounts of added sulfites.
  • If you see a Demeter Certified Organic Label, it means that farms adhered to additional principles, such as applying a holistic approach to farm management. Small amounts of sulfites are allowed to be added to biodynamic wine.
  • Many vineyards produce organic wines, but don't apply for certification so ask your local wine store if they stock any.
  • The Organic Wine Journal posts reviews, a blog, and other helpful info.

Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green's users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Yahoo! Shopping and Amazon.com.


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