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Going organic: the beer chronicles

Flickr/davidburn

The art of brewing beer is by and large an organic process, and the Fish Brewing Company of Olympia, Wash., is at the forefront of keeping that process as natural as possible.

Fish Brewing Company has been churning out an impressive array of USDA certified organic brews since 1993. The push for production increase in agriculture over the last century or so forced many farmers (and in turn breweries) to rely on chemical fertilizers and pesticides to maintain their crop quota, but the Fish Brewing Co. has steadfastly remained a user of certified organic materials whenever possible. All brews released with the Fish Tale logo use 100 percent organic barley and the freshest hops available in the Cascadian mountain region, making Fish Brewing Co. a flagship of organic breweries in the United States.

Fish Tale Organic Amber Ale, the most popular of this company’s brews, is as surprising as it is refreshing, even to this wizened beer consumer. To be frank, I only grabbed a six-pack of Fish Tale because it has an attractive label in shades of purple and yellow, and I am a sucker for a good label. And having been raised by wild hippies, I tend to lean towards organic foods and beverages anyway, so naturally this beer and I were destined to meet.

That first sip of a new brew is always the best, and simultaneously the most tenuous – that first sip instantly determines if I have indeed spent my weekly beer fund wisely or if I should have just gone for a six-pack of Narragansett instead. I will admit I hesitated on the first sip of Fish Tale. The smell that filled my room after I popped the top was almost overwhelmingly sweet. But a little courage and a whole lot of happy taste buds later, I may very well have found a new favorite in the amber ales family.

Fish Tale pours out a dark, cloudy shade of orange with an off-white head about a quarter inch thick. Not much retention in this beer, as the foamy head quickly settles and only leaves behind traces of lacing. Mild carbonation balances out the somewhat creamy body of this beer and leaves behind a crisp aftertaste reminiscent of citrus, nuts and summer fruits. Also making a cameo in this delicious ale are notes of leafy greens and bitter hops, rounded out by a hint of buttery bread. With so many flavors melded into one bottle, it’s a small wonder that this ale isn’t listed as a food group of its own.

Most notable about this brew is the unique taste: a healthy combination of caramel and citrus, two very distinct flavors that don’t typically coincide in a single beer. Floral notes and a subtle fruitiness complement the sweet taste of malt while not outshining the crisp taste characteristic of ales. The taste palette of this beer is so varied that it is almost impossible to categorize; it is simultaneously equal parts ale, lager, IPA and stout all blended into one remarkable liquid. If you ever find yourself at a loss as to which beer is best for you, Fish Tale Amber Ale is your best bet because it has all the finest qualities of any kind of beer contained in one 12oz. bottle.

That little green and white seal that says “USDA Organic” is often the selling point with most folks on food, so why not transfer those same standards to beer? Now you can impress all your organic-eating friends at your vegan-friendly tofu cookout when you break out a six pack of Fish Tale Organic Amber Ale. You may find that you’re enjoying it not because of the fact that it’s organic, but because it is simply a delicious beer on its own. Being certified organic is just a major plus.

Emily Brightman can be reached at ebrightman@student.umass.edu.

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