About

ChrisBeer Activist is the blog of Chris O’Brien, author of Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World (New Society Publishers, 2006). The blog is dedicated to my two favorite things: drinking beer and saving the world.

By day, I am the Director of Sustainability at American University. I have also worked as Director of the Responsible Purchasing Network at the Center for a New American Dream, and Managing Director of the Co-op America Business Network and the Fair Trade Federation.

I’ve traveled much of the world researching local brewing traditions, including the four corners of Africa, and did a short stint as a quasi-professional brewer at the Zululand Brewing Company in Eshowe, South Africa. My beer writing appears in places like American Brewer, Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, Zymurgy and New Brewer.

I am part owner and a board director of Seven Bridges, which is a brick and mortar store in Santa Cruz, CA and an online retailer (www.breworganic.com) of organic brewing supplies, and organic / fair trade home coffee roasting supplies.

I speak at conferences, festivals, beer tastings and other events involving beer, books and saving the world. I’m available to speak at your event. Just email me: beeractivist [at] gmail.com.

28 Responses to About

  1. Pablo says:

    Hello. I want to change the world and I want to do it with a beer in my hand.
    My question to you: is there a website that lists conscientious breweries and labels. I want to buy beer that supports good causes, does not fund war machines and political parties. Does such a list exist? If you could enlighten me I would be much obliged.

    Cheers,
    Pablo

  2. beeractivist says:

    Hey Pablo,

    Great question. I do have such a list, over on my other website here:

    http://www.fermentingrevolution.com/drinkbeer.htm

    Just this morning I was just thinking about how best to display and update this list on the blog. If you have any ideas, let me know. Meanwhile, you can refer to fermentingrevolution.com and I’ll try to determine the best way to maintain a list like this on the blog.

    Also, my book has a good list in it too. Plus lots more other good beer stuff. You can get a discounted copy from breworganic.com.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  3. E. Perrill says:

    Hello Chris,

    Your blog is really fun. I have an odd question.

    I’m trying to find an image of a large beer brewing pot that is in one of the breweries (maybe iJuba) in KwaZulu-Natal. Since you’ve been there I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Did you see a large, painted beer-brewing pot at one of the breweries you visited? I’m trying to find a picture for a lecture I’m giveing on Zulu beer pots, which is the topic of my dissertation.

    Can’t hurt to ask. Keep up the good work.
    Elizabeth

  4. beeractivist says:

    Elizabeth,
    I don’t think I saw a large painted beer pot anywhere, definitely not at iJuba which used industrial scale stainless steel vessels. There may be something like what you describe around Eshowe, but the only big vessels I recall seeing were used for brewing and were plastic barrels. I did see small beer drinking pots used for drinking, but none were painted or large.

    There’s a great craft store in Eshowe just down the street from the George hotel and I bet the guy who runs it could find something for you. It would also be well worth contacting Graham Chennels at the George Hotel. I roams the countryside snapping photos of everything Zulu and he has a special penchant for beer so I would be surprised if he doesn’t have some photos of the kinds of pots you’re describing.

    One last thing, I do have lots of photos of large clay pots used for both brewing and dispensing traditional beer in Burkina Faso. Let me know if you’d like photos of those and I’ll be glad to email them to you offline.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  5. bob tupper says:

    Hi Chris

    Thanks for the (mostly) kind words and for a good and thoughtful blog. Let me assure you that Tuppers’ beers will not be compromised because of the Old Dominion sale. We still own the brand and we still own the formula and we still live in Bethesda. I haven’t spoken to anyone connected with AB and there doesn’t seem to be any interest on their part to speak to me. I can absolutely promise that if they don’t make the beers to our standards, they won’t make them at all. It’s a (surprisingly) free country; we’re there by choice because they’re doing exactly what we want them to. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but I don’t worry about where Coastal gets its money any more than I worried about where Jerry borrowed money for Old Dominion. If things change, things change, but what won’t change is the fact that if Tuppers’ is on the label, the beer inside is going to be our beer. (OK– if AB wanted to buy us out for $100 million dollars, I’m gone faster than a rat leaving the ship— to deliver $50+ million to homeless shelters and the other non-profits we support). But I’m not quitting my day job, and you don’t have to stop drinking our beer. We have a slightly more formal statement at http://www.tuppersbeers.com.

    Thanks again for your good work and support over the years.
    Bob

  6. beeractivist says:

    Hi Bob!

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I am glad for the reassuring words about the Tuppers beers recipes. I would have been surprised to hear any claim to the contrary, from you or anyone else. Why would anyone want to change Tuppers Hop Pocket Ale or Pils? Thank goodness there is no danger of that.

    As it would happen, I was actually introducing a visiting colleague (from Portland, OR no less) to Tuppers Hop Pocket Ale at the very moment you were posting your comment. We had a draft at the Quarry House in Silver Spring and he appreciated how the Ale manages to be full flavored yet balanced.

    I do differ with you on one point. I care where companies get their money – and equally importantly, where their profit goes. That’s why, on top of loving Tuppers beers for their flavor, I’ve also been particular glad to drink them knowing that you contribute much of your proceeds to worthy causes.

    But as much as I support the idea of charity, worthy causes are, in many cases, end of the pipe solutions. I’m not arguing against charity, I’m saying that good business practices go a long way toward building a world where some of that charity would be rendered unnecessary. One good business practice is local ownership. To a large degree, Tuppers still has this, since you own your brand. But the company you contract with for brewing is no longer fully independent and locally owned.

    All this aside, I am really looking forward to attending your 15,000 beer tasting in a couple weeks! Cheers to ya!

  7. owlhouse says:

    Hello! We stumbled on your blog while trying to figue out who brews Trader Joe’s brand beers. Actually, I was looking for who they bought out, when and so on. Click, click, click- here we are.

    Fantastic site! We are a Seattle family out on an extended adventure and make a point of seeking local beers as we travel. I’m sure we’ll check back often for tips. We’ve (especially the kids) come to the conclusion that entirely too few breweries make their own root beer or ginger ale- so would appreciate any suggestions.

    Cheers!

  8. beeractivist says:

    owlhouse – good point about the non-alcoholic root beer and ginger beer options, although I do see them with what seems like increasing frequency. It’s pretty simple to make them – you should let places know you want it so as to help show them the demand. I’ll try to post something about this topic soon.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  9. john bery says:

    Just come back to UK from Canada. I’ve had a lot of good beer in my time but I had the best beer by miles at the Brutopia microbrewery/pub in Montreal. How can Canadians makeb etter beer than Brits?

  10. beeractivist says:

    John – I’ve heard about this “Brutopia” – I’ll have to make a point of getting there sometime. I’ve never been to Montreal but it sounds like a wonderful place.

  11. Fran Balaam says:

    I have just read your article in the Guardian. I am a post grad architecture student working on a scheme for a brewery. I was unaware of your book, but find that I have followed many of your points in terms of establishing a more sustainable industry, and it is really great to have your article to support my decisions!

    I wonder if you know how I can find out average energy consumption figures for different sizes of breweries? I would really appreciate your help.

    Thanks.

  12. beeractivist says:

    They differ pretty widely from one brewery to the next and unfortunately I don’t know of any reports that show averages but you might want to check out the Brewers Association “Guide to Starting your Own Brewery.” Check it out on their website: http://www.beertown.org.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  13. Hummingbird says:

    Hi Chris!
    I’m currently reading your book, and incidentally, live in Santa Cruz, Co. near Scotts Valley, just north of your store. My husband started brewing in July of last year and loves doing it :) and the rest is history. He just bought a brewing sculpture, so next weekend we will be making a porter honey stout as our first beer from the brew sculpture. (he’s made about 10 brews over the year, all 5 gallon batches, so this will be a definite step up!).

    I find it curious that we have this tremendous resource for organic brewing supplies, but there’s no pub associated with it! Where’s your pub, Chris? :) My husband said, if we had the money he would be seriously interested in doing this in a few years.

    So, what we are doing now, is refining our understanding of brewing (I’ll be doing my first beer next weekend), and we are also going to be planting a “gruit/beer garden” ie, a garden that has some of the more common herbs used in gruit, and a couple of beds of barley. This garden will have the focus of a pergola that will have hops growing on it… we are probably even going to have a kegerator out there so we can have our own little pub out there for the neighbors (and ourselves) when we tap a new keg. This is our own yard of course. We live on a cooperative of about 32 acres and 7 families, so the neighbors really appreciate the beers we’ve shared with them. And you’re right, brewing really does strengthen the bonds of community.

    As the female in the family, I’ve appreciated what you’ve said about women and brewing. I’ve long been a goddess worshipper, so our garden will have the elements in the directions, and will have a definite goddess oriented theme. Demeter (Ceres) would be proud of me, I think.

    Having lived in Germany, I developed a deep appreciation for REAL beer and have been so disappointed in the swill that you commonly get in this country. I think the home brews we have made are even better than the beers I got in Germany to be honest. So far most have been kits, we haven’t tried to make our own yet, but we hope to have one of our own each year from our own home grown hops and barley, after the garden is created. The only thing that will not have come from our own land will be the yeast.

    When will you be in Santa Cruz again? It would be nice to meet you and share a brew and talk about all of your interesting ideas. They really resonate with both of us. :)

    Happy Brewing!
    Joy in Santa Cruz Co.

  14. Hummingbird says:

    oh, you have a great store! Nice folks running it too!

  15. beeractivist says:

    Joy – Glad to hear you’ve started brewing (or at least by proxy through your husband). And thanks for the kind words about the store. In fact, we do plan to eventually open an organic brewery some day. Regarding your garden, I suppose you have already heard of the book the Homebrewer’s Garden? Great resource for info about growing the things you need for brewing. All the best with all your brewing projects!

    Cheers,
    Chris

  16. Gene Aleshin says:

    Since that colored-water manufacturer, Anheiser Busch, has put the kabosh on brewing Tupper’s beer/ale at Old Dominion, does anyone have information if Bob Tupper will find another good brewery to prepare his extraordinary product. I guess nobody at Anheyser likes good beer.

    Gene

  17. beeractivist says:

    Gene – All I’ve heard is that the Tuppers are seeking other brewers for the beers. No word yet as to who might do it.

  18. Beertrekker says:

    Website is in development.

    Reminder to all Obrien fans that Im sponsoring him this Saturday the 10th at Johns Hopkins Univ. in Baltimore City
    6-7pm Levering Hall

  19. I just have to say I am personally a fan of drinking beer and doing anything. And saving the world seems quite noble. Congrats and good luck.

  20. […] Topics for Today:  Today Bob welcomes Chris O’Brien. In addition to being a “Beer Activist” and Aficionado, Mr O’Brien works for the Center for a New American Dream. Together, […]

  21. danmihalache says:

    Hi, Chris. As long as you talk of beer, I’ll call again to see more. I noted your adress. Dan, http://danmihalache.wordpress.com

  22. Trace says:

    Hey Chris! I just found out about your book while searching around the web. I’m in college and my friend has Celiac Disease… in other words she loves to drink beer and is destroying her small intestine because of it. I don’t know if you have any mention of it in your book, but if you have any information of beers for people with Gluten intolerance it would be greatly appreciated. I’ve been trying to find some. But all of the obscure information is just getting me confused.
    Thanks!

  23. Tandy Cuen says:

    I really enjoy the information on this blog. I came across it while searching on Yahoo

  24. Karen says:

    Hi

    I have a question on small scale carbon capture and reuse in a microbrewery? Do you have any information on systems that are being used currently to capture the carbon from the yeast fermentation process and and then reuse it?

    Thanks for your assistance

  25. mahjong says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I really assume this web site needs much more consideration. I’ll in all probability be once more to read rather more, thanks for that info.

  26. Dave Stokley says:

    Drink beer, save the world. Love it. Get those “occupy” idiots a beer and they’ll realize everything isn’t so bad afterall. Either that or they’ll demand that the government pay for their beer too.

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