It’s medically proven that a pint of beer does a body good, but what’s the environmental cost of brewing? For each barrel of suds produced, beer makers sully an average of eight barrels of water. Spent grains are typically sent to landfills, and brewing itself consumes many a kilowatt-hour. (Recycling your beer bottles is but a drop in the keg against these ills.) Thankfully, brewers are increasingly taking an earth-first approach, employing renewable energy, recycling wastewater and, through unlikely alchemy, turning surplus beer into auto fuel. Creating a dream green brewery is as easy as following a few simple steps.
1. Feed spent grains to our furry friends: Nutrient-rich brewing leftovers of yeasts and spent grains, also called mash, are the perfect dietary supplement for livestock. Portland, Maine’s Allagash Brewing Company sells its mash to local farmers.
2. Cut out cars: Northern California’s Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s dual-horsepower delivery system uses two equines to make local beer deliveries, while employees of Australia’s Mountain Goat Beer receive bonuses for commuting via bicycle or public transportation. And Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery gives each employee a new bike after one year of service.
3. Conserve rainwater: Mountain Goat collects rooftop raindrops to reduce water usage. The water is filtered and stored in an 11,000-liter tank; it’s suitable for both drinking and toilet flushing.
4. Create 'beer-anol': Thanks to Coors Brewing Company, Colorado’s cars are chugging more beer than the tailgaters at Broncos games. Through a moonshine-like distillation process, Coors’ beer and brewing waste is turned into 3 million gallons of ethanol every year.
5. Dig a treatment pond: Anderson Valley (which uses solar energy) recycles its brewing water through a three-pond wastewater treatment system. This filters byproducts like excess nutrients, creating water fit for irrigating the company’s 30-acre spread.
6. Lessen your energy impact: New York City’s Brooklyn Brewery purchases wind-generated energy, but New Belgium uses byproducts as an energy source. Naturally occurring bacteria digest the company’s pond-stored brewing waste, creating methane, which is captured and piped to an engine powering 10 percent of the brewery’s annual energy needs.
This article was written by Joshua M. Bernstein for Plenty magazine in January 2007 and now lives on MNN. Copyright Environ Press 2007.