Ask any good brewer how they make beer and they’ll tell you this…
…They’ll tell you first and foremost that brewing beer requires tremendous passion. They’ll also tell you that making beer is an intense and complicated process requiring lots of water and energy. The fact of the matter is that making beer, by its very nature, can place a great deal of stress on the local environment.
The brewing process also produces large amounts of solid waste. And don’t forget that sourcing the ingredients needed to make the beer along with the packaging and distribution of the end product each pose their own environmental stresses, too. But breweries are keenly aware that a healthy community and a healthy environment helps keep their businesses afloat. As a result, more and more breweries are investing significant resources into sustainable manufacturing and business practices, and that’s cause to celebrate!
5 Reasons to Toast
1. Water conservation
One of the main ingredients of beer is water and it takes a typical brewery between 6 to 8 gallons of water to make a single gallon of beer. Brewers know that the quality of their beer depends mainly on the quality of the water. They also know that water quality serves as the litmus test for the area’s environmental health.
These breweries are committed to supporting the National Resources Defense Council and its fight to support the Clean Water Act.
Brewers like Full Sail Brewing have taken extensive efforts to reduce their water use. Remember how it takes 6 to 8 gallons of water to make a gallon of beer? Full Sail can do it with just 2.5 gallons! Full Sail Brewing has reduced their water consumption by an astonishing 3.1 million gallons per year.
2. Renewable Energy
Several breweries have chosen to receive their energy from renewable resources such as wind, solar and biofuels. For example, Brooklyn Brewing Company and Odell Brewing Company both receive 100% of their power from wind. Stone Brewing Company’s rooftop solar panels produce 30% of the power for the brewery and its restaurant.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company hosts three onsite solar PV arrays, providing 20% of their energy needs. Their four hydrogen fuel cells produce an additional 40%. Eel River Brewing Company is completely powered by biomass.
3. Solid Waste Management, Recycling and Composting
The MillerCoors factory in Golden, Colorado, recycles 100% of the waste it produces–all 135 tons of it, monthly. America’s largest brewery, MillerCoors has invested about $1 million in various equipment purchases and new infrastructure to achieve its zero waste goals. The company now projects a $1 million increase in annual revenue from selling recycled materials.
Great Lakes Brewing Company has an aggressive zero waste initiative as well, recycling everything they can. They share their spent grains with local farmers who feed the livestock and poultry featured on their Brewpub menu. Spent grain is also used to produce bread and pretzels for the restaurant. The remaining spent grain is composted via vermicomposting. The compost is then used to fertilize the brewery’s own Pint Size Farm and Ohio City Farm.
4. Alternative Fuels and Electric Vehicles
100% of Sierra Nevada’s waste vegetable oil from their restaurant is used to make biodiesel onsite. The fuel is used in their truck fleet. They also have two EV charging stations available for any visitors with electric cars to use free of charge.
Stone Brewing Company has 28 bio-diesel trucks as well as a hybrid delivery vehicle. They also have two EV charging stations onsite. And Odell Brewing’s delivery trucks also run on bio-diesel.
5. Organic, Sustainable Agriculture
Breweries such as Peak Organic Brewing Company work with local farmers and have partnered with local businesses who all share Peak’s sustainability ethos. These working relationships not only supply Peak with the ingredients needed for their wide selection of organic beers, it also stimulates and strengthens the local economy.
The short story is that brewing companies are pouring enormous resources into their respective sustainability efforts, regardless of their size. Even the smallest breweries have become leaders in sustainable business practices. For example, Central Waters, a small independent brewery in Amherst, Wisconsin has served as a sustainability model for much larger corporations.
Brewing companies are taking just as much care and pride in their ‘green’ initiatives as they are their beers. Why? Partly because the quality of the beer they make is directly tied to the health of their surrounding environment. Also, the costs of doing business would not be sustainable without significantly reducing their energy load and water usage. Finally, and most importantly, beer makers have enormous pride in their product. Like any other form of art, ‘how it’s made’ is just as important as ‘how well it’s made.’
Are you a brewer who strives to ‘green’ your beer? Let us know!
The following is an opinion post by David Johnson. David blogs and creates content for several companies on topics related to energy, green building, sustainability and the environment.
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