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The beer, not you, should be green

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Green beers are becoming a serious niche in the market. I know it will disappoint some of you, but this does not mean green beer a là Green Eggs and Ham (except during St. Patrick's Day festivities). This green beer is more Al Gore than Dr. Seuss.

Green, or organic, beers are friendlier to the environment, and most of the ingredients are grown without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. For a beer to be USDA-approved organic, 95 percent of its ingredients must be organic.

Not so fast, though: There is a debate about how "organic" the USDA label really is since brewers and manufacturers of "organic" beers can still buy their hops from nonorganic farms. The USDA has this loophole supposedly because there aren't enough organic hops on the market for all. So double-check your beer's label to ensure the hops are organic as well.

Among the first to tackle organic beer was Peak Organic Brewing Company, whose founder, Jon Cadoux, began brewing his own beer in 1997. Peak is among the "super-organic" beers, which means they are made from organic hops. Recently, major beer companies like Miller and Anheuser-Busch also have begun brewing organic beers, although not from organic hops.

So if you're trying to be greener in your beer-drinking habits, try shopping for your alcohol from an organic, even local, brewer, such as Freedom Beverage in Greensboro. If you're throwing a party, go for non-disposable cups instead of plastic. (It won't kill you to do the dishes the next day, I promise.) Check out sites like Brew Organic, where you can learn how to brew your own organic beer.

Correction (June 8, 2009): Per comment below, text above was amended. For Vermont's Otter Creek Brewing, makers of Otter Creek and Wolaver's, see www.ottercreekbrewing.com.

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