Today, the organic beer category rivals the growth of organic coffee with sales
topping $25 million—a growth of 29 percent in 2007 alone according to data
from the Organic Trade Association.
All the while, the humble, Vermont-based brewery has continued to focus
on three things, making great small batch organic craft beers, sourcing ingredi-
“ents as close to home as possible and continually looking for ways to go greener
“We wanted to show our commitment to
organic farming and what better
way is there to do that than to
name the beer after the organic
farmer who grew our pumpkins?” with everything from manufacturing to”packaging. From working with domestic farmers to overcome organic hops shortages to developing plans to create a
biomass powered eco-brewery—Wolaver’s has helped make kicking back with a
tall, cool one something you can truly feel good about.
Local Before Local Was Cool
These days, with the rise in awareness of global warming and carbon footprints, “local” has become a popular marketing strategy. But back in the 90s,
long before Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth,” Wolaver had already created a
business plan that revolved around not only organic, but also being as much of
a local operation as possible.
Experimentation with Regional Brewing. In the beginning, being local also
included a regional brewing structure. With recipes in hand, his team, named
the Panorama Brewing Co., struck up deals with breweries in five different
states to brew and distribute Wolaver’s Organic Ales.
It didn’t take them too long to figure out that this idea was great in theory,
but didn’t work so well in real life. Every brewery had different sizes of bottles
and caps, which required that they make different labels and separate shipping
cases for each brewery. The different breweries also would often substitute ingredients resulting in beers that didn’t taste the same. In the end, Wolaver’s decided that they needed to have their own brewery where they would have more
control, so in 2003 they bought out one of their partners, Otter Creek Brewery
in Vermont, and instead of focusing on brewing regionally, they focused on
sourcing ingredients as local as possible.
Supporting Local Farms. One of the best examples of their commitment to
local ingredients is their latest launch, Will Stevens’ Pumpkin Ale. And who is
Will Stevens you might ask? He’s an organic farmer that lives right down the
road from the brewery and the one who grows the pumpkins for the brew that
bears his name and image.
“We wanted to show our commitment to organic farming and what better
way is there to do that than to name the beer after the organic farmer who
grew our pumpkins?” said Max Oswald,
director of marketing. “If consumers
respond to this like we think they will,
this could be the start of a series where
we highlight the growers of the ingredients we use in our beers.”
In addition to the pumpkins, the
wheat for their Wit Bier is from Glea-son’s Grains, just down the road.
“It’s about the little things, not just
the big projects that look great,” commented Wolaver.
If it can’t be grown on the East
Coast, then the next best thing is to at
least stay in the United States.
Wolaver’s was able to do this with the
introduction of their All American Ale,
which uses only domestic ingredients.
“The mission in our business is to be
as local as possible. That being said, the
brewing business was not really set up
to do that. The growing conditions
needed to make quality barley and
hops are va stly
grains like barley
need more sunshine than Vermont could
Then Wolaver’s was started
there were using organic cotton ecobags in
the hops— promotions over seven years ago to encourage consumers to cut
the most down on plastic bags.
challenging little ingredient of all.
Working With Farmers to Increase
Domestic Supply. The biggest topic of
conversation when you talk to most
brewers is the hops shortage. That
shortage only gets worse when you look
at sourcing organic hops, and as organic beer grows in popularity it only
puts more strain on that limited supply,
says Oswald. Thus, most organic brew-