Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Choosing our Beer: The Milkweed Mercantile at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

Today I'm taking a break from heavy topics - like the politics of red states and renewable energy - and focusing on one of the more enjoyable aspects of having a cafe. (Tomorrow I'm happily picking up the subject of feminism and men who want to refuse women the right to choose...) Until then, lets talk BEER!

At any given time we carry around 30 varieties of beer at the Milkweed Mercantile. While our first choice would be to sell beer that is brewed here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, none of the brewers here have yet obtained a microbrewer’s license. This means that it is not legal for us to sell any homebrews here. In the meantime, we wait impatiently.

In addition to carrying local micro-brews, we looking foreward to having beer on draft. With our wind turbine up and running we now have a consistent power supply. We’re hoping to switch from bottles to taps by fall 2012. Cross your fingers!

But back to the topic at hand. Like everything at the Milkweed Mercantile, we pay close attention to the brands we carry. The criteria we use for beers served at the Mercantile are:
  1. Must be local, organic, and/or somehow eco-groovy - solar or wind powered, community minded, socially responsible, or something worth supporting
  2. Must taste good, at least to some of our customers
  3. Must be available from one of our distributors (this is the trickiest one!)
Below is a list of (most of) the beers we currently serve, and why:

New Belgium Brewery, located in Colorado, is an impressive organization. Their web info on sustainability goes on for pages – they really get it. Plus they are big supporters of bicycling, which is near and dear to the hearts of all Dancing Rabbits, whether they drink or not. Even better, folks here love New Belgium’s brews.
We carry New Belgium Fat Tire, Abbey, Ranger, 1554, Trippel, Organic Mothership Wit, plus seasonal varieties.

Bell’s Beer is located in Kalamazoo, MI, which to us is considered local. If this seems like a stretch to you, come visit DR. Your view of "local" might expand a bit. Bell’s doesn’t seem to be particulary sustainability minded, but they are a Midwestern brewery, and they are independently owned. Two checks in the “Good” column as far as we’re concerned. We carry Two-hearted Ale, Best Brown Ale and Oberon (the world’s prettiest beer label and cap!).

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. started in the late 70’s in Chico, CA and is still independently owned. In December 2008, they completed what is now one of the largest privately owned solar installations in the country. They also have a bio-gas recovery program. Not only do we love their beer, we love their attitude. I wish all companies were this conscientious. We carry Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Sierra Nevada Stout.

Schlafly is located in St. Louis, MO, which for us is REALLY local. Their sustainability efforts aren’t (yet) stellar, but at least Schlafly is thinking about this stuff, which is a step in the right direction. We serve Schlafly Summer Lager, Octoberfest, Winter ESB, and No. 15.

OK. We admit it. Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider is imported from the UK. But it is organic, and it tastes GREAT!

North American Breweries, makers of Honey Brown Ale, is headquartered in Rochester, New York was formed in 2009 by KPS Capital Partners, LP, a private equity fund. The company owns and operates five U.S. breweries and six retail locations in New York, Vermont, California, Oregon and Washington.

So that's the current list. We're always on the lookout for something more local, more organic, better tasting. And remember - we're keeping it all cold for your next visit!