Craft beer goes green: Environmentally conscious brewing companies

  • Onsite energy production, including wind, solar, and an innovative use of using the methane from waste-water to produce electricity.

  • Their Steinecker ‘Merlin’ Brew Kettle is designed to reduce boil to by one half, thereby conserving a lot of energy.

  • The interior of the packaging plant uses "beetle kill pine", trees killed by pine beetles, so no healthy trees needed to be cut.

  • Treating their own waste water.

  • Employees are given a bicycle after one year of service to reduce emissions from automobiles.

But New Belgium is not the only brewery making a difference. Kona Brewing in Hawaii began its solar panel installation this year at their brewpub on the Big Island, use a number of practices to reduce their energy use, and reuse the byproducts of brewing. Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, gives their spent grains to local farmers for livestock feed, and in turn, buy their meat from the farmers to serve in their restaurants.  This is a very common practice among brewpub owners who have also been known to use the grains for pizza and bread dough. Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland, Ohio, has what they call the "Triple Bottom Line." This is the foundation of their business "to engage in economic, social and environmental practices that achieve a sustainable, yet profitable, business." Along with a host of sustainable practices, Great Lakes Brewing also has a partnership with Pint Sized Farm in nearby Bath, Ohio, to provide their restaurant with organic, locally grown produce. The Granddaddy of craft brewing, Sierra Nevada, is at[image-1] the forefront of the movement towards sustainability as well. A combination of its own solar plant (one of the largest private solar arrays in the United States), the use of fuel cell technology, and significant heat and CO2 recovery puts the Chico, California, brewery up with the greenest of the green breweries.

Brewers all over the country recognize that sustainable practices are not just feelgood measures or good PR moves. By implementing technology like solar and wind power, and by reusing the by products of their brewing process in many different ways, it actually makes economic sense for the long run. In addition, they are serving their own communities by reducing pollution, creating and supporting local jobs, and of course offering a high quality, local product.  So next time you enjoying your favorite craft beer, take a minute to think about what went into it, and the impact it has on the world around you.

How green is your beer? No, I am not talking about the dyed swill forced upon the masses on St. Patrick's Day, nor am I referring to the several "lime" varieties of the light American lagers that shall remain nameless. I am talking about sustainability. The eco-friendly and environmentally conscious brewers. Does your beer stack up?

The brewing process is energy intensive. From the amount of water used to the spent grains, the heating of brew kettles and the chilling of wort, even the smallest craft brewery uses a great deal of resources, both in material and in energy. Craft brewers have a tendency to be ahead of the curve in a lot of ways, from collaborative efforts with other breweries to forming partnerships with other local businesses. An excellent example of this is how many of them are working to becoming "greener" breweries. So what are these independent business people doing to reduce their impact on the planet, and why? From coast to coast, craft brewers are making changes both big and small to "go green". 

One of the most visible and vocal in their efforts is New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Few companies — let alone breweries — take their commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility more seriously than New Belgium. To many, they are the gold standard of what can and should be done. Opening for business in 1991, their fundamental core beliefs included "kindling social, environmental and cultural change as a business role model" and "environmental stewardship: honoring nature at every turn of the business." This dedication to the environment, as well as a desire to make great beer, continues today. An entire book could be written about New Belgium and what they have done, but just a few of their green practices are:

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