Nicholls was at Alameda Brewhouse when he first started playing around with organic malt and found that the barley it was made from produced more fermentable sugars than conventional malt. When he made his organic Heather Ale in 1996 from that malt and some heather he'd grown in his yard, he thought he'd invented something new. That is, until he did some research and found out that heather had been used in making fermented drink for about, oh, 4,000 years or so....
In 2000 he organized a symposium at the Lucky Lab and invited all the local brewers. But news of the upcoming gathering spread and soon he was getting e-mails and phone calls from all around the country. Robert Wolaver, who began making certified organic ales in Vermont in 1997, asked to come and speak, as did Bret Cooperrider from Ukiah Brewing Co. in California.
In all, nearly 50 brewers and industry people came to hear from Oregon Tilth about organic certification and to talk about chemicals, GMOs (genetically modified ingredients) and organics. Nearly all agreed that they should each make one organic beer, and almost all of them have in the years since, though only a few keep one on tap full time. And that first symposium spawned the first North American Organic Beer Festival, now in its fourth year.
Read the whole thing here. (It's worth a click-through.)