The Ins and Outs of Non-GMO Beer & Wine

As this long, hot summer winds down, sometimes there’s nothing better to beat the heat than a thirst-quenching adult beverage on a cool night, with the company of a loved one and a Texas sunset. But just like any other food you put in your body, it’s hard to sink into an ice-cold beer when you’re aware of the genetically modified and artificial ingredients lurking inside the bottle! Knowledge about the ingredients and nutrition of alcoholic drinks plays equally as vital a role in your physical health as any fruit or vegetable.

Chemicals in Your Average Brew

The consumer demand for transparency in food and drink labels, including beer and wine brands, has risen over the past decade due to a flood of unsettling information regarding the manufacturing of our favorite brands. False advertising in food products (such as unverified claims of being “all natural”), unsatisfactory, incomplete lists of product ingredients, and dishonest use of non-organic and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is rampant not only in American food, but in our alcoholic beverages as well.

Beer companies are not legally required by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to list the ingredients or nutrition information for their brews unless required by state law; what’s more, only low-calorie light beers tend to list calories, and the process of alcohol labeling is a complicated tangle of protective regulations (protective of the company, not the consumer). These rules also apply to wine vineyards, who are also not legally obligated to list their ingredients.

GMO Yeast in Your Wine

For wine, the GMOs can be present in the yeast making process as well as the grapes themselves. GMO grapes have been manufactured in Chile, France, Germany, South Africa, and America, although these modified grapes have not yet been approved for commercial consumption. A strain of GMO yeast, however, has been approved- ML01 -thanks to its ability to expedite the wine fermentation process.

Even if a brand claims to use organic grapes, the bottle still has the potential to contain GMO yeast. Keep scrolling to find non-GMO certified wines!

While narrowing down the GMOs in your wine glass seems easy enough, beer is much less transparent due to the fact that it contains one special ingredient: corn.

There’s Corn in Your Beer

According to the USDA, 88% of all corn grown within the United States was GMO by 2012, and that number has only grown since. Unlike our European counterparts, who avoid genetically altered ingredients in their brewing, the American industry embraces inorganic products like GMO corn for one reason alone: it is ridiculously inexpensive. Corn rules the land in this country, serving as the foundation of almost every processed/non-organic American food and drink product, disguised as either high fructose corn syrup or one of several corn-derivatives. American breweries definitely use this GMO corn to concoct their beers, so how much corn (and what derivative form of it) are they using?

Unfortunately, hunting online for accurate nutrition and a precise list of ingredients in your beer or wine is about as convoluted a process as trying to decipher their labeling regulations. Food Babe’s investigation into large company transparency speaks for itself:

“The chemical Propylene Glycol Alginate (PGA) is added to some beers as a stabilizer for foam control and it is sold as an additive under various commercial names such as Stabilfoam. Another potential source of PGA is as a carrier for some “natural flavors” in fruit-flavored and cider beers.” 

Some common adjuncts in major beer brands, but not included in the lost of product ingredients (if they’re disclosed all), include the following:

  • GMO Corn syrup
  • GMO Rice
  • GMO Corn
  • Dextrose
  • Caramel coloring

Unless they yield certified organic brews, beer and wine companies almost always place GMOs, additives, and sweeteners in their beverages…but without clear, consumer-friendly labeling and a definitive set of rules, these companies are legally able to sweep these unnatural ingredients under the rug.

Non-GMO Brands to Explore

non gmo beer brandsThe USDA requires organic beer and wine companies to adhere to strict guidelines in order to maintain their certification. For breweries: “100% organic” means a drink that is purely organic, with no traces of GMOs or chemicals; “Organic” means the drink has 95% organic ingredients, with the non-organic ingredient usually being the hops (since organic hops are difficult to come by); and “Made with organic” means a drink with 70% organic ingredients, with the remainder being non-organic.

Here are 7 well-known beer brands that are verified by the USDA to be non-GMO organic. For other options, your best bet is to choose local craft beer over major brands to avoid unwanted ingredients:

Last but not least, here are 9 noteworthy wine brands that are non-GMO organic (discover even more at the Non-GMO Project website):

Don’t be afraid to research beyond your bottle’s label, and remember to drink your organic beverages responsibly!