The North American Organic Brewers Festival in Portland, Oregon is Setting the Standard for Sustainable Living

Written by Max Goldberg on June 2, 2011. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

For organic beer lovers, the North American Organic Brewers Festival (NAOBF) that takes place in Portland, Oregon from June 24-26 has to be as good as it gets. Where else can you sample dozens and dozens of organic beers, listen to great music and be surrounded by so many like-minded people?

After speaking with Craig Nicholls, the founder of the event, I realized that this is much more than exposing people to organic beer. This is about raising the bar for sustainable living, especially for large events.

What does this mean exactly?

“Our goal is to have less than 100 pounds of trash at the end of the day. I am very confident that we can do it, and our goal for next year is to have no trash,” said Craig Nicholls.

No trash at an event that is supposed to attract 18,000 people?  How could that be?

Well, the environmental rules that Craig Nicholls and his team have put in place are very, very strict. And if vendors don’t follow them, they are not allowed to participate in the festival.

Highlights include:

– Everyone drinks from a reusable, compostable corn starch cup
– All food served is certified organic
– No straws, no plastic lids – all food vendors must use compostable flatware and plates.
– Onsite composting and recycling
– Electricity is from bio-diesel and and solar generators
– Volunteers wear organic cotton and hemp t-shirts
– All event signage is reusable
– Attendees are encouraged to take public transportation

The Event

It is $6 to get a corn starch cup and then you buy tokens ($1 each) for the beer. If you want to sample a beer, it is 1 token and you get filled to the green line.

If you want to fill up your entire cup, it is 4 tokens.

Represented at the festival will be 52 different types of organic beer from breweries located in Oregon, Washington and California. Not all of these breweries, however, are organic but the NAOBF has found a way around that.

The NAOBF has instituted its own organic certification process for beer vendors that are not certified organic. Many vendors, who sell non-organic beer, make one special organic beer just for the festival and must provide certificates from where they are sourcing their ingredients. The fact that the NAOBF has its own certification process is incredibly impressive.

Aside from beer, other organic drinks that are offered include cider, kombucha and root beer (for designated drivers). Additionally, a lot of money is raised for two charities – The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Oregon Food Bank.

Plans for Expansion

There have been a lot of inquiries about taking this organic beer festival to other parts of the country, and discussions are ongoing about San Diego hosting one this winter.

However, Craig Nicholls first wants to perfect the model in Portland before expanding elsewhere. Based on our conversation, it seems as if he is practically there.

My Take

MAJOR, MAJOR kudos to Craig Nicholls and his entire NAOBF team as they are doing a phenomenal job of promoting organic and really setting the bar for what sustainable living is all about. Awesome work!!

Also, even though I have been sober for 12 years and am pretty out of the loop as to anything alcohol-related, a few of the beers on the extensive menu looked very, very interesting. The two that really popped out to me were the Organic Yerba Mate IPA by MateVeza and the Organic Acai Berry Wheat by Eel River Brewing Company.

For more information on the North American Organic Brewers Festival that takes place from June 24-26 in Portland, Oregon, check their website.

Admission is free, and kids under 21 are allowed if accompanied by an adult.

(Photos courtesy of NAOBF and Timothy Horn)

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