Reducing Environmental Impact in Brewing
At Equity, we believe that brewers should always be looking to the future, and that making beer sustainably is a big part of that. In a new blog series “Sustainability in Beer”, writer Hollie Stephens will cover the different ways that breweries can be more mindful of the environment when making beer.
Across the world, sea levels are rising, and glaciers are retreating. In 2019, the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere topped the highest point previously recorded. We can no longer stand by and watch; the time to take responsibility for impact on our planet is now. It has never been more critical for businesses – both large and small – to think carefully about their environmental impact and take steps to reduce it where possible. But for any organization that takes raw materials and manufactures these into a saleable product, it can be extremely challenging to find ways to use fewer resources.
In the beer industry, breweries are searching for ways to operate more sustainably, though some aspects of making beer can be energy intensive. According to Craft Brewing Business, the process of boiling the wort (the hot liquor comprised of malt extract from the grain mash, and water) typically accounts for more than a quarter of the energy usage for most breweries, whereas refrigerating the finished beer can account for more than a third of a brewery’s electricity usage. In some cases, breweries are designing facilities that allow them to produce their own energy. For example, in 2016, Sierra Nevada’s North Carolina facility became the first production brewery in the U.S to achieve certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum status. The brewery has employed a number of different strategies to become more energy efficient, such as installing solar panels and microturbines.
Reducing carbon footprint is another key issue, especially since for brewers, carbon dioxide is both a raw material and a waste product. Many breweries - including Alaskan Brewing Co and Denver Beer Co – have chosen to use equipment which allows them to capture the CO2 that is produced during fermentation, as the yeast converts the sugar into alcohol. The captured CO2 is then cleaned and reused to package beer, eliminating the need to ship CO2 to the brewery especially for carbonating the finished beer.
To affect real and lasting change on a global and national scale, it truly takes a group effort, and smaller communities working together is a great place to start. In Wisconsin, New Glarus Brewery was one of more than 6,000 businesses to participate in the state’s Focus on Energy program, investing in energy-efficient equipment that is expected to save more than 7.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity. Even small energy efficiency incentives on an organizational level are great for getting everyone working towards the same goals. For example, Grand Rapids based Brewery Vivant created a program focused on encouraging their team members to live more sustainability, with financial incentives for those that hit milestones.
Reducing the environmental impact of the brewing industry is a marathon, not a sprint. At Equity, we are dedicated to making incremental changes as part of the industry-wide push build a more sustainable future for everyone, one beer at a time.