Archive for November, 2008

Organic Party with Beer and Wine

Friday, November 28th, 2008

An Organic Party, this is the theme of many trendy parties since people have become more aware of the need for a greener and ECO friendly environment.  You would normally think of getting organic meat and vegetables, how ever organic beer and wine are fast becoming more available.   I like the idea of being organic but I can’t really taste the difference between organic and non-organic food products.   The organic beer also seems to be similarly priced as non-organic.  With providing better health and being more environment friendly, buying organic makes a lot of sense.


Certified Organic food must be made with at least 95% organic ingredients to follow standards of the USDA.  Organic food products are grown without using pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics or growth hormones, are free of animal and industrial waste and processed without radiation and food additives.   So this can’t be a bad thing.  If the product is produced locally, this also helps keep your dollars local, another big advantage.  However you should understand a little about what being organic means.


Organic Beer

Organic beer is usually from small regional microbrewers but increasingly national brewers like Anheuser-Busch,  Miller and New Belgium now all provide organic beer products.  The Stone Milol Pale Ale and Wild Hop Lager from Anhewser-Busch labeled by the Green Valley Brewing,  Miller’s Henry Weinhard’s Organic Amber Premium Ale are a few examples from the big brewers.  New Belgium has the Mothership Wit organic wheat beer that is very good.  Two other beers for smaller breweries are Butte Creek pilsner and Bison’s pale ale.  American organic beer totaled 40,000 barrels in 2006 and over 50,000 barrels in 2007, a 25% increase.


Beer has fairly simple basic ingredients; hops, malt, yeast and water.  Water comprises more than 90% of the beer and can come from different sources; rivers, springs, wells.  The malt comes from the barley that can be grown organically.  The hops are from a flowering vine that adds flavor and aroma to balance the malt sweetness.  Yeasts are micro-organisms that convert the sugars into alcohol and by nature are organic.


According to the USDA, non-organic hops can be used in “certified organic products” if the organic version is not “commercially available.   So many of the larger brewers will use non-organic hops and the beer will still be certified organic.  So the best bet to get fully organic beer will be from your local microbrewers where there is a better chance they will be using organic hops.  The larger national brewers may or may not be using organic hops.


Organic Wine

Organic wine is a little more complex since it requires not only organically grown grapes but also different processing methods.  These differences can alter the grapes traditional taste, aroma and color but still be very good wine.  Winemaking techniques are very difficult to make organic since faster processing time, fermentation steps and little or no sulfite additives can be used to control the yeast and protect the wine from oxidation.  Most organic wines will contain low levels of sulfites from natural sources.  Not using the synthetic sulfite compounds also will help reduce the common headache associated with drinking wine. Wine made with lower amounts of additives and modified processing are usually called Natural wines.  Many of the organic wines will be made using organic grapes but with the more traditional processing techniques.


Organic wine will have a different meaning based upon the country of origin.  Different countries have their own certification standards, so what may be considered organic wine from one country, may not be in another country.


A good wine is due to many factors and a good organic wine only adds to the complexity of the process.  Organic wine usually comes from a healthier soil environment and provides a fruitier flavor.


It has been my experience that finding organic wine is harder than finding organic beer.  A couple US organic wines are from the NY Four Chimneys Organic Winery and the CA Paul Dolan Vineyards.   Many more are available by checking with your local wine store.

Interactive Ski Map for Your Skiing Holiday

Monday, November 17th, 2008

A new iPhone application Snocator, as in snow locator, provides your current location on a trail map while on the mountain at your favorite ski resort.   Snocator is from the Denver, Colorado company Useful Networks that specialize in mobile location applications.


Snocator is like an interactive trail map guide that gives the skier information while on the mountain.  Need to find the closest restaurant for a lunch break?  Looking to find your friends on the mountain (not yet available)?  How about finding the fastest non-black trail down at the end of the day when you legs feel like mush?   A skier just needs to tap away on their iPhone to get their locations on the trail map.


Other nice features are up-to-the-minute weather forecasts, mountain camera views and snow reports.  Trail maps are available for 60 plus resorts in 12 US states and Canada this season.


Snocator works anywhere there is cell phone or WiFi access.  It is best to download the trail maps before you are on the mountain in case you are in an area out of reach by the cell phone towers.  Having the 3G iPhone with GPS capability provides the most accurate location information.


The application costs $5.99 and needs to be updated each year.  Snocator application versions are planned for Blackberry and phones using Google’s Android operating system.


According to their web site, features coming in the future are keeping track of others on the mountain and the capability to log your speed and vertical drop.