Sustainable brewing in the Last Frontier
Especially in remote Alaska, drinking local beer is gentler on the environment than something brewed in the lower 48.
Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 13:38
I do my best to drink the delicious beers brewed locally in my own town and state of Alaska. Why not support sustainability in our beverage choices? While in Alaska we have a multitude of fabulous breweries, all ingredients must be shipped in by barge, truck or plane from the lower 48. Agricultural options aren’t exactly plentiful in the north with our long dark winters and short-but-sweet summers.
I asked Ben, the founder of Kodiak Island Brewing Company in Kodiak, why drinking their locally brewed beers was greener than consuming imported beer, when the grains and hops must be shipped up as well. The two of us agreed that the weight of water is far greater than the weight of the grains shipped from Washington state. Ben said 95 percent of the beer’s weight is from water, which is locally sourced. This means that locally obtained liquid has a smaller carbon footprint than beer brewed down south and shipped to Alaska.
There are few alternate options when it comes to importing grains, but there are still many ways in which Alaskan breweries can utilize sustainable practices. Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau prides itself on its energy efficient brewing techniques. The growing craft brewery was the first in the U.S. to utilize a carbon dioxide (CO2) reclamation system. In essence this system captures carbon dioxideand reuses it in the brewing and packaging process rather than releasing the harmful emissions into the environment. Alaskan Brewing Company also has an innovative boiler that recycles spent grain, already used for brewing, to further fuel its processes. The brewery has reduced its gasoline and diesel emissions immensely using these technologies, saving both money and the environment.
Kodiak Island Brewing Company (KIBC) also uses many green practices. The brewery produces its beverages using mostly organic ingredients. It sells its beer only in growlers and kegs, solely reusable containers, so the brewery largely reduces waste. KIBC has also decided not to export any beer from the island. Ben explained that the reason they don’t export is to keep the product fresh and high quality. So for the sake of freshness, their beer is a completely local commodity and consequently the brewery’s carbon footprint of exportation is largely reduced. The only unfortunate side of this is that beer drinkers outside of Kodiak cannot enjoy the wide array of tasty brews they’ve created.
Growlers, or refillable glass jugs, are mainstream in Alaska. This allows people to walk in to a brewery, fill their own bottle with fresh beer, and bring it home with them. Not only is this economical for the brewery, as it eliminates the cost of bottling, but the consumer also pays a lower price. Growlers reduce glass waste as well, so this policy is a triple win. Haines Brewing Company fills growlers and uses organic base malts for their beers. Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage fills growlers for five bucks on Tuesdays, making local choice extremely desirable.
Even living in the Last Frontier, sustainable brewing options are endless. Be a smart drinker and enjoy local beers brewed mindfully. Consumer choice is one of the greatest ways to exercise our individual power in a capitalist economy where options are endless. Make good consumer choices and support local, sustainable practices, even when selecting beer. From the brewery to your growler is the greenest way to drink.
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