There's another organic beer on the market, and this one can help change agricultural practices. Early this month, Patagonia Provisions announced the launch of a beer it calls Long Root Ale, describing it as a Northwest-style pale ale made with organic ingredients and the perennial grain kernza.
Patagonia Provisions, launched in 2012 by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, offers ethically- and sustainably-sourced food. Patagonia Provisions looks at Long Root Ale as a step toward transforming agricultural practices and a way to support sustainable farming.
Long Root Ale is being launched in partnership with Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) in Portland, Oregon. HUB is a B Corporation and is strongly committed to both organics and sustainable brewing practices. Whole Foods Market stores in California, Oregon and Washington started selling Long Root Ale on Oct. 3. Certain Whole Foods Market bar restaurants, both Hopworks locations and the Miir flagship store in Seattle will serve the beer on draft.
Why make an organic beer? Since “beer holds a critical role in society and history,” the company saw crafting one as “an opportunity to use such a widely influential product to tell the story of organic regenerative agriculture, via Kernza, to a wide swath of people with a product we can all enjoy and get behind,” Birgit Cameron, senior director of Patagonia Provisions, said in a statement. The company hopes that the message of the importance of a more sustainable form of agriculture “reaches the big brewers of the world.”
Long Root Ale is made with organic ingredients, including organic two-row barley, organic yeast and organic Northwest hops. It also contains 15 percent kernza -- sourced in partnership with the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, which saw breakthroughs in organic regenerative agriculture with kernza.
Organic regenerative agriculture can help fight climate change, according to the Rodale Institute. It is a “tried and true” method for soil-carbon sequestration. If all current cropland in the U.S. shifted to a regenerative model, over 40 percent of annual carbon emissions could be sequestered, and if all global pasture was managed using a regenerative model, 71 percent could be sequestered.
Nearly all grains are annual crops. And as annuals they are planted from seed, grow to maturity, produce seed or fruit and then die. This all occurs in one year. Annual crops account for almost 85 percent of the food calories we eat and most of the plant croplands globally. Farmers must either suppress or kill weeds in order to successfully grow annuals. Traditionally farmers used hoes and plows to get rid of weeds before they sowed annuals. That causes soil disturbance, which leads to soil carbon loss. And that carbon from the soil winds up in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Weed-killing efforts can also cause soil erosion, nutrient leakage and changes in soil organisms -- none of which is good. Some farmers in the developed world have shifted from tilling to using chemical herbicides. While it reduces soil erosion, it still can lead to nutrient leakage and low soil carbon levels.
Kernza can be an important part of organic regenerative agriculture. As a perennial grain, it has advantage over annual grain crops. Perennial grains like kernza do not need to be reseeded or replanted annually, so they do not need annual plowing or herbicide applications to be established. They protect soil from erosion plus improve soil structure while increasing carbon sequestration. And perennial crops “represent a paradigm shift in modern agriculture and hold great potential for truly sustainable production systems,” according to the Land Institute.
Long Root Ale is the first commercial use of kernza. The Land Institute expects the first kernza variety will be more widely available by 2019.
Image credit: Patagonia Provisions
Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.