The idea of being more sustainable can be daunting for any brewer when you consider all the heat, water, and ingredients in play, not to mention the potential for waste. But when you get to the core of sustainability, it comes down to maximizing usage, buying smart, and giving back. Here are eight ways any brewery big or small, new or established, can make its beers feel as good as they taste.
1. Be conscious of your sourcing habits. Source locally when possible.
— Able Beer (@AbleBeer) October 5, 2016
While it’s not yet possible for Minnesota breweries to entirely source local hops, homegrown adjunct ingredients are in ready supply.
56 Brewing uses local honey, indigenous spices, herbs, and flowers, some which are grown on-site, in its pilot beer creations, and Able Seedhouse + Brewery uses 225 pounds of native Minnesota elderberries in its Elderberry Kettle Sour.
Austin Jevne, the head brewer at Forager Brewing, has a passion for creating beers from wild ingredients he has found in and around Rochester, making for beers that are fresh, creative, and good for the environment. August Schell Brewing contracted two farmers in the New Ulm region to grow 140 acres of barley, and is working to increase the acreage this year.
Another great way to make an impact is to consciously source ugly fruits and vegetables, which consumers largely pass over in grocery stores. This eliminates food waste from overproduction and helps the bottom lines of local farmers.
2. Measure, or at least audit, water use
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Water is at the heart of brewing beer, and any brewery with the goal of sustainability can start measuring and reducing water usage. A leaking valve can cost a brewery up to four dollars an hour in wasted water.
Installing flow meters to continuously monitor water use is a simple fix for small and large brewers alike. Some breweries, like Bent Paddle Brewing Co., opt for on-demand hot water instead of having a typical water heater, cutting the cost and energy usage of heating more water than is needed.
But water usage should be audited not just in brewing, but in cleaning and packaging as well. To reduce water usage at Pitchfork Brewing, head brewer Mike Fredricksen built a sanitation system that recaptures reusable sanitizing liquids, and the owners of 10K Brewing opted for a nano water treatment system to correct for Anoka’s hard water, foregoing wasteful reverse osmosis treatment.
3. Donate to sustainable causes and get active with conservation organizations
Many of Minnesota’s breweries work to make a positive impact on the environment through giving back to the community.
Founded on stewardship of Lake Minnetonka, Excelsior Brewing donates one percent of its profits to support the lake through organizations like the Freshwater Society.
Twin Cities brewers, such as 612Brew and Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub, among many others, work with Brewing a Better Forest, a nonprofit connecting arborists, brewers, and craft beer fans in the spirit of nurturing and adopting the newly planted trees of the Twin Cities.
Some brewers choose to get politically active. Fitger’s Brewhouse, Carmody, Thirsty Pagan, and Bent Paddle voiced opposition to the PolyMet Mining NorthMet copper-nickel mining project by joining the Downstream Business Coalition.
4. Be mindful of energy efficiency
— Odell Brewing Co (@OdellBrewing) January 16, 2015
Investing in heat- and energy-recovery systems is a good step for brewers looking to be more sustainable.
Some breweries, like Utepils Brewing in Minneapolis, are able to invest in state-of-the-art brewing systems that cut down on energy use and recapture heat. Renewable energy is another way for a brewery to cut down its carbon footprint. Odell Brewing and Central Waters Brewing, among others have invested in systems like solar thermal panels to heat and power their breweries.
Breweries unable to afford solar panels or wind turbines can take a step in the right direction by purchasing renewable energy credits to help offset their carbon footprint. But even easy changes, like installing LED light bulbs or updating seals and thermostats in a brewery’s cooler can also make a huge impact.
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