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Greener breweries

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At the risk of making ourselves look like fools in front of more knowledgeable beer environmentalists, I thought I’d share this article that Matt sent in about the three most environmentally friendly breweries. According to the author, the three breweries are (in order):

  1. Brooklyn Brewery (warning, annoying website alert). Why? 100% wind power.
  2. New Belgium (warning, another annoying website alert). Why? 70% wind power, reclamation of waste water, cultivation of bacteria and miscellaneous
  3. Coors (I’m not linking to them). Oooh. Why? Aluminum cans and selling ethanol. Quite frankly I’m not sure if this should be on the list. Aluminum cans are great, but they’re no longer novel.

Do you guys have any thoughts on this list?

P.S. We’re congregating tonight at Jeff’s tonight to witness the domination train that is Memphis, but won’t be brewing. You’re welcome to come out.

6 thoughts on “Greener breweries

  1. I have a thought: 2 out of the last 4 posts on this website are thanks to stuff I’ve found. This blog would barely exist without me.

  2. My thought is that the whole chat about green vs. selection is a tough one.

    I live in Chicago, which is not only a great place to live, but has a selection of beer that my friends in Germany can only dream of. Which is cool. The problem is that those beers have to get here somehow. Unfortunately New Belgium doesn’t displace their beer like on Star Trek. And when I see Brooklyn Lager at the store, it had to come somehow on some sort of truck. So while I applaud their efforts, and wish more companies would think that way, I *gulp* almost think it should be more of a thing where we reward the companies that do that AND have a better commitment to distrbuting more locally, and less at a national and international level. But I do so love Ommegaang.

    I think the best of both worlds in homebrewing. Sure, the ingredients have to get to your house, but we re-use bottles many, many times, it’s easy to use chilling water for a bunch of things (gardening, car washing, laundry), and it’s still possible to do that and make world class beers (not that I have yet) that you couldn’t buy in any beer store for any price.

  3. I agree with what Kevin said, and there is an irony in it. But…New Belgium is quickly becoming one of the most popular and widely distributed craft breweries. Looking at their model, or Sierra Nevada (who does a lot of green things as well) you can look at their popularity (and distribution) as a positive. Its not cheap to go to an eco-friendly brewery unless you start by building it that way. While companies like New Belgium and Sierra Nevada have grown, so have their abilities to increase the amount of green business practices they can have. East End Brewing Company in Pittsburgh does a ton of great sustainable things and Scott, the owner said that if they expand (because of popularity + more money) then he has all kinds of ideas he can incoporate into a better, more sustainable brewery.
    While I want to support my local beers, and I try to that as much as possible, there are so many great beers out there. And if my support somehow leads to more money in the pockets of companies doing the right thing (like New Beligum) then its only going to benefit everyone because New Belgium can grow and show that you can be a sustainable, wind powered, employee owned operation AND make money and compete on a national level with other breweries who might not be doing things as sustianable.
    I digress, otherwise this could go on and on.

  4. Jonathan,

    Got your email. Great post. My thoughts:

    1. There are many, many other brewers making similar efforts but these three certainly deserve their props.

    2. Green is green no matter who does it. Don’t be a hater on big breweries for doing the right thing environmentally. A ton of carbon reduced by Coors is a ton of carbon reduced whether you like their beer or their company and whether or not they still have a million other tons of carbon that have yet to be addressed. Let’s count progress wherever it is and keep trying to do better at the same time. Coors did invent the recyclable aluminum beverage can and that was a major breakthrough that still gives us benefits today. Anheuser-Busch is actually the world’s largest aluminum beverage can recycler. But Coors (as well as A-B, SABMIller and most of the other big brewers) do a lot to minimize their environmental impact. Most of the big global brewers publish GRI reports (Global Reporting Initiative) in which you can read about their sustainability programs. Google GRI and you’ll get access to all these reports.

    3. Ethanol is not inherently problematic – it’s actually part of the solution to our dependence on petroleum and the global warming its producing. The problem currently is that most ethanol is derived from corn, which is a particularly poor feed stock for ethanol because it’s not very efficient compared to other feedstocks and because it puts a crunch on food crops (and has contributed to the recent rise in barley prices). Coors is producing ethanol from beer waste. That is very much a good thing to do – turning waste byproducts (instead of corn crops) into fuel.

    4. Regarding the transportation issue
    There are three good reasons to drink organic beer no matter where its brewed.
    a) According to a recent study conducted by a large craft brewer (can;t say who yet because it hasn’t been publicly released), the majority of the carbon footprint of a bottle of beer comes from refrigeration at retail stores. The next two biggest chunks are from glass manufacturing and the production and malting of conventional chemical barley malt. In other words, transportation contributes a lot less to this lifecycle than we might have thought. So, if you’re buying a bottle of beer from a store, choosing one that is made with organic barley makes a much bigger impact than worrying too much about where it was produced.
    b) Choosing organic products helps show demand which in turn motivates more brewers to go organic which means eventually we’ll have more choices of organic _and_ locally-produced beers. The recent explosion of organic beers is proof of this.
    c) Most of the people I hear complaining about how ironic or hypocritical it is to drink an organic beer from a non-local brewery are perfectly happy to drink an imported Belgian beer but would at the same time begrudge someone else from drinking an organic beer from Belgium (of which there are several). In other words, if you already drink beers from all over the place (as most craft beer connoisseurs do), why would choosing a beer that is organic be hypocritical?

    In any case, it’s heartening to see how much is being written about ‘green’ breweries these days. Congratulations on your organic brews guys!

    Cheers,
    Chris

    P.S. I wholeheartedly agree that homebrewing is a great green solution. Major environmental savings plus it’s as fresh as it gets!

  5. 100% wind power in Brooklyn? Really? Maybe they buy green power credits or something? But if you do that can you claim that you?re truly 100% wind powered? I’ve been to the Brooklyn Brewery a few times and have yet to see the first windmill…

  6. According to their website, https://www.brooklynbrewery.com/brewery/, they are 100% wind powered. They are 100% powered by NewWind Energy which is a product of Community Energy. I believe their power is supplied the same way, but they get the power from windmills (remote location).

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