Let’s talk about beer for a second or two. You see, here at the co-op, we are all about sustainability, transparency, local food systems, and good farming practices – easy goals to hit when you’re buying local asparagus from Lattin Farms over in Fallon. But what about beer? It’s one of the few things you can find at the grocery store that doesn’t have a list of ingredients, let alone information about the farming practices behind it. And it comes from all over the world!
So we decided to put our thinking caps on and take a real, hard look at what sustainable beer really means.
Our first foray was into location – it’s obviously more sustainable to ship glass bottles full of (mostly) water from somewhere relatively close. So, we quickly got rid of any imported beer; there’s no need to ship beer overseas when America has more than five THOUSAND craft breweries! In fact, with numbers that big, we don’t even need the east coast to make beer for us, we are happy keeping our roots tied in the western USA. That’s a great start: now the furthest beer away from us is coming from Colorado.
Of course, we love to get beer from even closer, which is why our set is now more than sixty percent local! Yes, you heard us right. More than half the beer we sell is coming from our foodshed! We currently support eight Reno/Tahoe breweries, and carry 25 different local brews, which dominate our beer set. Of course, most stores’ beer selections are fickle and constantly changing to keep things new and interesting, but as they say around here, Home Means Nevada, and we’re keeping it that way. In fact, let’s list those eight breweries so you can give them a gander and see how awesome they all are:
- St. James Brasserie
- Under the Rose
- Great Basin Brewery
- Tahoe Mountain
- Alibi Ale Works
- Brewer’s Cabinet
…and our two newest additions
Alright! Let’s give them a round of applause. Because, as we all know, keeping money in the local economy benefits our city and the surrounding areas in many different ways.
OK, so we have now defined our beer selection as a proud representation of the best northern Nevada (and Tahoe) has to offer. That’s quite a start.
But how do we fill in the gaps? Well, we don’t want beer from one of the massive international beer conglomerates, like InBev, who make a third of all the beer in the WORLD and regularly supports legislation that makes it harder for craft brews to thrive in a local market. That means weeding out the lines from breweries like Ballast Point and Lagunitas, who are owned by the conglomerates.
Then there’s the ingredients – nobody labels what goes in their beer, so it takes a little research to discover that beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon use corn syrup in their brewing process (See ya later, PBR. Sorry, hipsters.) Sigh. If only people were making organic beer, since that guarantees at least some standard of environmental accountability in brewing. But nobody’s really doing that, right?
Actually, there is more organic beer than you might expect. Not all craft brew quaffers are bearded hipsters who care more about the terroir of their brew than the farming practices used to brew it – there are plenty of conscientious imbibers who like to have their fermented liquids free from pesticides, thank you very much. That’s why a full quarter of our beer selection (and another 60% of the remaining selection aside from our favorite local brews) are certified organic! Special mention goes out to Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, who prove that you can have the most top-of-the-line sippable award-winning beers AND have them made organically. Then there’s Eel River, who take organic to the next level by running their brewery on recycled biomass and giving their spent grains to organic cattle farmers.
So let’s raise our glasses (or bottles, or cans) to supporting organic and local brews at the Great Basin Food Co-op! I’ll drink to that.