I can still feel it — the cool sea breeze blowing through my hair as I sat on a grassy hill during a summer trip to the small fishing village of Howth, Ireland. I was young, I was adventurous, and I was sampling the best beers the region had to offer. As St. Patrick’s Day approaches this year and I reflect on my Irish adventure long ago, I am reminded that GMOs can show up anywhere — even in beer!
Many commercial and craft brews contain genetically modified corn syrup, beet sugar, or yeast. GMOs can also sneak into beer through genetically engineered additives or artificial colorings. Fortunately, the list of brands selling Non-GMO Project Verified spirits, beer, and wine is growing, and I was inspired to reach out to a couple of breweries who are producing Non-GMO Project Verified libations to discuss why it is so important to create beer with non-GMO ingredients.
Mark Ruedrich, President and Co-Founder of North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg, California, is as passionate about consumer transparency as we are here at the Non-GMO Project. “We believe our stakeholders – who are our employees, our community, and the consumers that drink our beer – deserve transparency from us. Being transparent with our stakeholders means, among other things, recognizing our consumer’s right to know what’s in our beer,” Ruedrich reflected when asked why it was so important for North Coast Brewing Co. to become Non-GMO Project Verified. Ruedrich continued that, “…yeast is at a high risk of being grown on GMO feedstock, and there are other common brewing ingredients that could be genetically modified.” At North Coast Brewing, Ruedrich and company use non-GMO sourced yeast propagated in their lab at the brewery.
Ruedrich adds that, “Just as the Certified B Corp logo tells an entire story about our company, so does the Non-GMO Project Verified butterfly about our verified beers. Both are rigorous third-party verifications that ensure that we are walking the walk as far as our values are concerned, and provide our customers with a sense of trust around our brand.”
Brendan Gangl, the “Ideas Guy” at Peak Organic Brewing Company in Portland, Maine, echoed a similar sense of responsibility on behalf of beer makers. “Being Non-GMO Project Verified is a huge deal for us at Peak. We hang our hat on the fact that every single ingredient that we brew with, every single hop is purchased directly from a local family farm that we have a relationship with … it’s really important to us to promote sustainable sourcing and local agriculture.”
Gangl went on to say that education and discussion were key in getting people to ask, “What’s in my beer?” “If we can help move people along that progression, where the curiosity they might have about new beer styles can evolve into an interest and curiosity about beer ingredients, then we’ll be at a point where people start making the link to sustainable sourcing in beer in the same way they consider it with the produce or the cereal they buy.”
I feel refreshed and inspired to work with so many companies at the Non-GMO Project who are as passionate about preserving and building sources of non-GMO products and educating consumers as we are. Brands like Mastri Birrai Umbri, Bell’s Brewery, and Frey Vineyards are in tune with consumers and provide the verified non-GMO choices they demand.
I hope you join me in supporting all of our Non-GMO Project Verified breweries this St. Patrick’s Day as we celebrate the foremost patron saint of Ireland. And for those of us who don’t drink alcohol, there are thousands of other Non-GMO Project Verified beverage options to keep you happy and hydrated–including root beer and other sodas from longtime Non-GMO Project supporters like Zevia and Hansen’s Sodas. How lucky are we?
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!