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Festive Winter Beverages To Keep Your Organic Spirits Bright

Blog1212_Beverage_EmptyGlassAlthough you may be an expert at planet-friendly shopping when it comes to normal groceries, most people are less-informed when it comes to spirits. Thankfully, there are scores of wine and beer makers who take the time to include only the highest quality organic ingredients. Choosing these spirits is better, not only for the health of yourself and the planet, but also to show support for the organic farmers and manufacturers who are willing to do it the right way, rather than the easy way.

Why Organic Alcoholic Beverages?

You’re probably wondering, “is there really any difference between organic alcohol and the regular kind of liquor, wine, or beer?” Actually, yes. Unbeknownst to many who imbibe on a regular basis, conventional alcohol manufacturers often use chemicals to speed up alcohol production so they can bring their product to market faster. These chemicals leave behind salts and heavy metals that may make it through to the final product. And as you may have guessed, organic alcohol is produced from products free of pesticides and fertilizers, chemicals that, when ingested frequently, can potentially increase the risk of cancer or post other health risks.

If you’d rather not ingest any more chemicals than necessary, think about seeking out some organic spirits for your holiday parties this year. Below are some brands and recipes that can help get you started. Remember, local + organic is always better!

Organic Spirits

Blog1212_Beverage_CocktailPrairie Organic Vodka is a family-produced award-winning spirit made in Minnesota. To make it, single vintage organic corn is distilled to taste, not a prescribed number of times. Once distilled, the vodka is taken to a local, family-owned bottler. After the harvest, the corn is brought to the farmer-owned distillery in Benson, Minnesota; a sustainable co-op that converts leftover corncobs into fuel and returns the leftover distillers grains to local farmers for use as feed.

Try: Hot Toddy with Apple Cider and Organic Prairie Vodka

Established in 2008, Koval is the first craft distillery within Chicago's city limits since Prohibition. They source all of the grains, fruits, herbs, and flowers from the surrounding Midwest region, and make all of their spirits in house, entirely from scratch - from mashing to distilling, bottling to boxing. All of the grains are certified organic by Midwestern Organic Services Association (MOSA) and Koval is a member of Slow Food USA.

Try: Millionaire Martini with Koval’s Rye Chicago Whiskey

In Washington, the number of distilleries has multiplied in recent years, largely due to the change in regulation. Such regulation allows for limited tasting which is an effective way for distillers to introduce and promote their products. At the same time, the regulation requires that 50% of all raw materials come from the State of Washington. So by choosing an organic distillers in Washington, you are not only supporting organic standards, but also the local economy.

Try: Bainbridge Organic Distillers in Bainbridge Island, Washington

Try: Bluewater Organic Vodka by Bluewater Distilling in Everett, Washington

Try: Botanical liqueurs by BroVo Spirits in Seattle, Washington

Organic Winter Wines

Blog0812_Wine1The idea of "winter wines" is not so much about specific vintages being appropriate in one season and unacceptable in another. It’s more about finding a wine with characteristics that pair well with the foods we associate with the season.

Try: Robert Sinskey’s Pinot Noir - Over 170 acres of Sinskey vineyards are Demeter Biodynamically certified; which is nothing to sneeze at, as biodynamic classification is even more rigorous than organic certification.

Try: Frey Vineyard’s Sangiovese - A third-generation family vineyard that was the first certified organic and biodynamic winery in America.

Try: Sokol Blosser Vineyards Evolution, 16th Edition - This is not only one of the U.S.’s best-priced organics, but is probably one of Oregon’s most fairly priced white wines, period.

Washington is home to many great organic wineries. Besides filling your home cellars, you can join in the festive events at the wineries and do some holiday tasting.

Try: Badger Mountain Vineyard in Kennewick, WA

Try: China Bend Winery in Kettle Falls, WA

Try: Snoqualmie Winery in Prosser, WA

Organic Seasonal Beers

Blog1212_Beverage_BeerIf you’re a regular beer drinker, then get ready to celebrate. Almost every microbrewery comes out with a winter seasonal brew around this time of year. You have to look a little closer at the label to ensure that you’re getting an organic beer, but those are pretty common as well. In the Pacific Northwest, be sure to check out the following.

Try: Abominable Winter Ale by Oregon’s Hopworks Urban Brewery - Made with Cascade, Centennial and Simcoe hops and six organic malts.

Try: Winter Session Ale by Portland’s Peak Organic Brewing Company - Interesting pineapple notes from the Citra hop provide a stark contrast to the toasty notes in the body.

Try: Organic Winterfish Seasonal Ale by Olympia, Washington’s Fish Brewing Company - With a snappy hop character, this isn’t just another brown beer masquerading as a seasonal.

Try: Organic Mashing Pumpkin Ale or Organic Noale Holiday Ale by Burien, Washington's Elliott Bay Brewing

Other Specialty Beers from Our Backyard

If you are looking for more fruity beers, Laht Neppur Brewing Co in Waitsburg, Washington may have what you are looking for.

Try: Strawberry Cream Ale and Peach Hefeweizen

For a twist, you can offer ciders from Finnriver Farm & Cidery in Chimacum, Washington.

Try: Dry Hopped Cider, Black Currant Cider

Happy Holidays. Cheers!

Beth Buczynski is an environmental writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. Follow her on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

Photo credit: Cocktail by fibroblast, Wine with a Friend by The D34n

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