By Kim Robson:
Humans have been fermenting fruits, vegetables and grains since the dawn of civilization. Ancient Mesopotamians stored “liquid bread” for later, using straws to drink beer from large vats as early as 9,000 years ago. Around the same time, a Neolithic village in northern China was producing a mixed fermented beverage made from rice, honey and fruit. Sumerians, Egyptians and Hebrews used alcohol for medicinal applications. The Greeks and Romans were well known drinkers. Up to just a hundred years or so ago, Americans and Europeans drank low strength beer and cider as a matter of course because it was guaranteed not to be rancid. Even wild animals learn that eating half-rotten fallen fruit makes them feel happy, sleepy and goofy.
But those of us who enjoy adult beverages and also want to live a green lifestyle should choose wineries and breweries that are committed to sustainable production methods. We’ve covered organic wine and beer in the past, but let’s take another look at eco-friendly beers and their breweries’ practices. Craft beers are growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. Many micro-breweries are bringing back the aluminum can, staring down the long-held stigma that only yellow fizz water comes in cans.
Aluminum is durable yet lightweight, a boon for shipping. Less weight to transport equals a smaller carbon footprint. (Always look for cans that are BPA-free.) Other advantages to aluminum include the following:
- Aluminum is 100% recyclable and can be recycled almost indefinitely without loss of quality or durability.
- Aluminum cans can be recycled, repurposed, and back in the store in as little as two months.
- The average recycling rate of aluminum cans is 68%, the highest rate of recycling of any resource.
- The use of recycled aluminum in manufacturing utilizes 95% less energy than creating aluminum from raw materials.
Drinking responsibly produced beer is certainly the better alternative, especially when it’s GOOD beer. See below for a list of sustainable breweries and what they’re doing to help keep it green:
Mountain People’s Beer & Wine Distributing – An independent family-run distributor providing California with the largest selection of organic wines and beers available.
Dogfish Head Brewing Company – Offers many organic beers throughout the year, some others are once-a-year batches. Available in 28 states,
Brooklyn Brewing Company – 100% wind-powered facility saves 335,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every year.
New Belgium Brewing Company – 70% wind-powered facility. The remaining 30% is sustainable energy from reclaiming wastewater, cultivating bacteria, and combusting methane. The facility cleans and re-filters water used for cooling, then gives the water back to the city for residential use.
Stone Brewing Company – Facility has 1,500 solar panels which have cut its energy bills in half and offset an estimated 538,000 pounds of carbon emissions (equivalent to planting 204 acres of trees). Delivery trucks are bio-diesel.
Odell Brewing Company – 100% wind-powered facility reduces greenhouse gases through waste reduction, recycling, and utilizing renewable energy sources. The brewery’s ceilings are lined with skylights. Employees are encouraged to bike to work and/or carpool. Delivery trucks use bio-diesel.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company – Nearly 100% solar-powered, producing 1.4 megawatts of AC power, with plans for surplus energy to be made available to Chico’s overloaded power grid. A participant and signer of the California Climate Action Registry, they work with a consortium of green businesses to track, report and reduce greenhouse emissions statewide.
Great Lakes Brewing Company – An environmentally progressive brewery, it has a “Zero Waste Initiative” to reuse by-products generated from brewing. Plans are for 100% of the brewery’s resources to be used in a closed loop: “Take, Make, Remake.” Delivery trucks run on vegetable oil; packaging is recyclable; water is locally-sourced; and they support sustainable urban renewal projects.
Full Sail Brewing Company – Cuts energy use and water consumption by 20% simply with ten-hour shifts. Facility has energy-efficient lighting and air compressors to reduce annual energy use by 400,000 kWh. Reduced water consumption practices use 3.1 million fewer gallons of water per year.
Eel River Brewing Company – Certified organic, 100% powered by bio-mass and renewable energy. Power is produced from mill leftovers such as wood chips, bark, scrap lumber and clippings. Separate pretreatment facility lessens the demand on city’s water treatment plant.
Alaskan Brewing Company – Zero-net negative environmental effect by reclaiming and reusing “at least as much waste and emissions as we produce.” Carbon dioxide reclamation system captures and cleans CO2 to be reused in packaging and to purge oxygen from holding tanks. Captures about 783,000 pounds of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. A mash filter press also saves 65,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year.
And, believe it or not…
Coors Brewing Company – First to develop recyclable beer cans. One of the largest brewers in the world, they sell ethanol (a brewing by-product) to refineries for green gas stations catering to eco-friendly drivers.