Posted on January 12th, 2010
Last week, we showed you what you can do as a beer drinker to be environmentally friendly. There are a number of steps breweries can follow to ensure that they take care of the environment as well. Many of America’s top craft breweries are quite environmentally responsible. Today we’re going to take a look at how some breweries are doing their part for the planet.
Environmentally sustainable life and work can be tough for most of us, and it’s even more difficult for those in isolated locations like Alaska. That hasn’t stopped the Alaskan Brewing Company from taking extra steps for the benefit of the planet. Due to their remote location and lack of natural resources, many basic ingredients and supplies must be shipped long distances. Essential items such as heavy canisters of CO2 to artificially carbonate their beer must endure a long and treacherous journey. The brewers found themselves constantly having tons of CO2 canisters shipped 900 miles from Seattle to their facility in Juneau. The cost of this operation and the gas required for it was not sustainable, both for their pocketbooks and their carbon footprint. Instead, the brewery developed a unique system to recapture and reuse the CO2 that is naturally produced in the brewing process.
Many brewers avoid creating excess waste and garbage by selling or giving their spent grain to dairy farmers for use as cattle feed. Once grain has been boiled in the first step of the brewing process, it’s of little use to humans. Fortunately it still makes great food for cows. Brooklyn, Full Sail, Smuttynose and Wolaver’s are just a few of the many brewers who take this simple but very green step. There aren’t many dairy farmers near them, so the Alaskan Brewing Company must ship their spent grains down to the Pacific Northwest. To help reduce the cost of shipping, they developed a unique method of compressing and drying their grain into a compact form. It’s a one of a kind system that meets the company’s needs, but many breweries could benefit from it. The Alaskan Brewing Co. also makes some great beer, as evidenced by their long list of awards.
Another brewery with a strong environmental commitment is New Belgium. This Colorado brewery known for Fat Tire ale has taken steps to ensure almost every aspect of their operation is as eco-friendly as possible. Through a combination of wind, solar and recycled methane gas, almost all of the electricity they consume comes from renewable resources. They also have their own water treatment facility on site, and like many breweries, sell their spent grains to local dairy farmers. New Belgium also cans many of their beers, which is one of biggest steps brewers can take towards helping the environment, as we mentioned on Thursday. They publish a yearly sustainability report detailing their environmental impact and steps taken to correct them. Additionally, New Belgium donates a portion of their profits to environmental causes.
Although New Belgium has clearly set the bar high for environmental stewartship, many breweries are doing their part. Author Chris O’Brien has even written a book on the subject, Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World. Check out his website Beeractivist.com for more info.