Green Beer You Can Get Behind: Eco-Friendly Efforts
By Emily Weiss
You bike to work, haul your groceries home in your own reusable bags, compost, and use the expensive compact fluorescent light bulbs – but there’s something else you could be doing to reduce your carbon footprint. Choosing beer from a brewery that employs ethically and environmentally sound practices is an enjoyable way to be a little greener, and it’s increasingly easy to do with many breweries jumping on that bandwagon. Breweries across the nation are running on wind power, donating their financial proceeds, and using local grains to brew; our list focuses on green breweries who distribute their beer to the Minneapolis/St. Paul market. Maybe you’ll discover that you’ve already been doing good just by drinking good beer.
Full Sail Brewing Company – Portland, OR
Compared to other breweries of their size and output, Full Sail uses about 50% less water in their brewing process and overall operation. In addition to a hot-water recovery system and equipment that is designed to minimize water usage, the brewery also houses a water treatment plant, the resulting materials of which are recycled by donation to farmers for use as fertilizer. And from the 100% recycled paper packing to recycled glass bottles, Full Sail displays a serious commitment to using sustainable materials in their organic-certified facility.
Fulton Beer – Minneapolis, MN
Admired locally for their hop-bomb of an IPA and boisterously fun taproom, Fulton has also received recognition for some of their eco-conscious efforts. For example, the brewery gives their spent brewing materials to local farmers to feed livestock, and, because they offer growler refills onsite (Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays), Fulton uses fewer individual bottles and less packaging overall. As a further testimony to their partnership with local farms, Fulton recently teamed up with Tangletown Gardens to make the brewery a pick-up spot for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company – Chico, CA
Working steadily towards the goal of becoming a zero waste outfit, Sierra Nevada has managed to recycle over 96% percent of its total waste produced last year. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the bulk of their heat and electrical power is supplied via alternative sources: about 40% comes from on-site hydrogen fuel cells (the only brewery in the country to house them), 20% comes from solar panels, and 5% is derived from wind power. Brewers recover carbon dioxide produced by the fermentation process and recycle it back into the plant; the waste vegetable oil produced in the brewery’s restaurant is converted into biodiesel, then used to fuel the trucks transporting beer from the plant to store shelves. And as the country’s oldest organic-certified brewery, Sierra Nevada is staunchly committed to using organic hops and local grains.
Indeed Brewing Company – Minneapolis, MN
Notable for its use of aluminum can-only packaging, which is more environmentally-friendly than glass. First, recycled aluminum is generally made into more aluminum, a process which uses less energy than the recycling of glass. Second, aluminum is lighter than glass, making it easier to transport and reducing the amount of fuel used to get Indeed’s beer from point A to point B. This relative newcomer to the local craft beer scene is also a member of 1% for the Planet, a global alliance of businesses donating 1% of their gross revenue to organizations helping to preserve and restore our natural environment.
New Belgium Brewing Company – Fort Collins, CO
Environmental stewardship is the very basis of New Belgium’s mission statement, which is why it’s always mentioned in any conversation about beer made to a high ethical standard. In addition to their now-famous Tour de Fat – an annual charitable bike race promoting the bike as a healthier, environmentally-sound and viable form of transportation – the brewery runs partially on renewable wind power, with over 85% percent of their energy use coming from other renewable resources. Compared to the industry average, New Belgium produces 35% less emissions than other breweries, and is able to convert methane gases into energy for their facilities.
Alaskan Brewing Company – Juneau, AK
Similar to Indeed Brewing’s connection to 1% for the Planet, Alaskan Brewing works with an organization called CODE (Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone), which promotes green practices and sustainable living measures to maintain the eco-balance in Alaska. The brewery annually donates 1% of its gross sales to the organization. and reuses carbon dioxide – a natural byproduct of the fermentation process – to help power their factory.
Dave’s BrewFarm – Wilson, WI
Upon setting up his small operation in the town of Wilson, Dave Anderson, owner of Dave’s BrewFarm, along with his wife Pamela, noticed the powerful and seemingly unrelenting wind in the area and decided to harness it. Their brewery now runs almost exclusively on wind-derived power from an on-site wind generator, which, in addition to being a clean and renewable source, is also cheap. Their heating and cooling system is geothermal and Dave’s BrewFarm uses hops, herbs, and berries that are grown just outside the brewery’s walls on their 35-acre plot.
Odell Brewing Company – Fort Collins, CO
Another of the top green breweries (what’s in the water in Fort Collins?), Odell’s facilities derive energy from rooftop solar panels. To conserve energy, they use a smart, sensor-based lighting and cooling system which automatically turns off lights and air conditioning if a particular room is vacant. They also use biodiesel in their delivery trucks, recycled cardboard packaging, and all food and paper waste from bathrooms and common areas is composted.