Sustainable keg delivery: Biking for beer
Pittsburgh micro-brewery takes sustainability one pedal further with annual keg ride.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - 11:35
CHARIOTS OF BEER: The first kegs of the summer seasonal ale are attached and ready to embark on their sustainable mystery journey across Pittsburgh. (Photo:robjdlc/Flickr)
If you believe in science — and who does that anymore — then apparently beer is more hydrating than water. So what better way to hydrate after a nice bike ride than with a cool, freshly brewed summer ale — that you helped deliver? That's one of the eco-awesome ideas behind East End Brewing Company's annual Keg Ride, a unique effort to raise awareness about running an environmentally sustainable micro-brewery and encourage bicycle transportation in Pittsburgh. Every year the brewers get together with a few good friends to deliver the first kegs of the summer season to a local pub — by towing it across town behind their bikes. And, if you've ever towed a 160 lb. barrel of beer behind your bike on a hot summer's evening (or even just followed someone who has), you know that hydration is the first thing on everyone's mind.
This May marked the sixth annual Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride, now a veritable tradition within biking and drinking circles in Pittsburgh. From a humble group of around 12 bikers on the first ride back in 2005 to over 700 cyclists blocking traffic throughout Pittsburgh this year, the Keg Ride has developed quite a following. For a small donation supporting bike advocacy in Pittsburgh, riders get to follow the keg to a mystery bar location before enjoying the first pint on the house.
The several-block-long procession of bikes produced a range of responses from drivers and neighbors. When most heard that this outlandish mass of cyclists descending on the city was delivering a keg of local beer, though, a nearly universal smile of approval was the result. Cycling across Pittsburgh with a keg of beer strapped to your bike is an easy way to make friends, I can assure you.
This year's ride drew a diverse crowd: grizzled road veterans sporting tattooed arms mingled amiably with families riding tandem bikes. What everyone seemed to share, though, was a love of good beer and an appreciation of local companies with a well developed eco-consciousness.
The guys at East End Brewing Company in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood know a thing or two about sustainable brewing processes — they've been brewing over 10 types of environmentally-friendly, vegetarian beers for almost six years now. Much of their brewing equipment is preowned, purchased from local sources, from the fermenters to the kegs. The spent grain is donated to a local dairy farm as high-protein cow feed supplement (known as beneficial reuse in environmental circles), and a portion of their hops is grown at a local organic farm. Did I mention they produce so little solid waste that they don't even have a dumpster on site?
Being a local microbrewery, their transportation costs were already pretty minimal ... but still reliant on fossil fuel-powered trucks to deliver the kegs to area tap spots. Not with bikes, though. Hence the decision to start an annual keg ride, as much an excuse to celebrate good summer seasonal ale as to reduce their carbon footprint in an engaging and interactive way. Cheers to you, East End Brewing Company!
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