by Mégane Strowski Content Specialist at Beerwulf
Organic beer: Brasserie de VézelayHow is organic beer made?
The number of craft beer breweries around the world has ballooned in recent years. Even though craft accounts for only 5% of the total beer market, the presence of new, nimble players in the market has truly awakened the world of beer forever.
Of course, this means huge opportunity for smaller craft brewers who can buck trends and become really experimental with their aromas and flavors. But, with microbreweries popping up left right and center, brewers are looking for more authenticity and originality to satisfy the growing demands of their consumers. One way in which some breweries are trying to stand out is by brewing beer organically.
This has been the case for Brasserie de Vézelay , an organic craft brewery in Saint-Père, Burgundy. They have made a name for themselves as a real frontrunner in organic beer, with pure malt beers that comply with the Bavarian decree on the purity of beer. To prove it - they won 12 medals at the Concours Général Agricole and 5 World Beer Awards.
Meet Marc Neyret, its creator.
We spoke to Marc about his passion for the product, and asked him the question on so many lips these days - what is organic beer, exactly?
Have you always been in the beer business, or was this a passion that came later?
I have always loved beer, cooking, and wine. But there’s something special about beer in particular. It’s international, popular in the noble sense of the word, and friendly.
Before creating Vézelay, I was Human Resources Director at a big company. After 20 years in that career, I got tired of it. I wanted to try something new but I didn’t know what. So I started by traveling throughout Europe and beyond. It was during a visit to Scotland that I discovered the job of “brewer”. It was a real revelation. I thought, “that's what I want to do with my days”!
Once I returned to France, I enrolled in training at L’institut Français de la Brasserie de Nancy - a school in France that teaches brewing and malting. After, I put down a deposit for the brewery building not far from the basilica of Vézelay in Burgundy.
For an urbanite like me it was a real turning point. But I was also focused on creating something in this region. To open up new jobs, to work with local farmers... For me, a brewery is not only about the beer - it’s also the social and economic fabric around the production.
Then, thanks to my wife, I met a true Bavarian master brewer with worldwide recognition, Stephen Peter Stadler. Meeting him was more than decisive in the creation of the brewery and our products.
Can you tell us more about your products and your brewery?
For the product I wanted to do something different: no bottled fermentation, as is usually the case. And no sugar. Only water, malt and hops. This is at the heart of who we are. No additives, only organic products. Even if all this takes more time and means additional costs.
This approach helps us to create new economic activity in the region; activity which fits into its environment, which respects it. We work mostly with local producers, sourcing all the wood, natural paint and plants locally, and materials from a Bavarian family business.
How do you make organic beer?
For starters, we only use 100% organic products. The manufacturing process remains the same as with any classic beer, except we don't include any additives or sugar. Special care is also given to the verification of the brewing facilities. There is no filtering or pasteurisation, so the slightest mistake is paid for dearly. The key: clean clean and clean!
In the brewery we use more than 10 different malts and more than 10 types of hops. We work with European producers, except for two very specific types of organic hops which we have trouble finding here.
Does organic beer have a different taste?
There are amazing beers that are not organic, and vice versa! Our beer is just more pure than others. The taste lies in the manufacturing method, and that's specific to each brewer, organic or not. Personally, I choose organic to be respectful of the environment and the consumer. We already eat enough junk. Organic isn't for fashion - it's just my firmly held belief.
... And to complicate the task, you also created a gluten-free beer! How is that made?
I added it to our range, initially, because my mother is allergic to gluten. The problem is that she still doesn't really appreciate beer!
To remove gluten, it's an enzymatic process. Quite simply, the enzyme cuts gluten. I can't go into much more detail than that, becuase it's a manufacturing secret. But I will say that as well as having gluten-free certification, we also have our beers tested at an independent lab to be completely sure.
It's a complicated process but we do it for a good reason!
Your packaging is very original. What made you choose it?
Packaging is another important element for me. Our beers are not strong in alcohol. That's why we offer 50cl bottles. But more and more craft breweries are following suit.
The bottle is brown, because as we don’t filter and we don’t pasteurise, we must protect our beer from light in particular. For the label, we wanted something minimalist, simple and elegant, much like the product. A drawing of a naked woman or a glamorous car on the label wouldn’t have quite the same effect... (laughs).
What’s your favourite beer?
It depends entirely on the moment, but currently it’s 30 degrees so I would say our de Vézelay IPA. It's very refreshing.
Brasserie de Vézelay is open for public visits, so if you happen to be travelling in Burgundy, make sure you stop by the brewery experience first-hand how Marc balances tradition and modernity with pure, organic beer.
There are many other great breweries creating organic beers too. Check out the selection of organic beers here.