Green beer isn’t just for St. Patrick’s Day anymore. From embracing aluminum cans to sending spent grain to local farms to use as feed or fertilizer, the craft beer industry has been finding ways to make brewing more sustainable and environmentally friendly for decades.
Now, as the need for a drastic change in environmental practices becomes more obvious and urgent, they’re stepping up their efforts. This Climate Week, join us in recognizing some of the great things these breweries do to keep your beer — and our planet — green.
Sierra Nevada has been a leader in environmental responsibility in brewing since Ken Grossman brewed his first beer using repurposed dairy equipment. Today, they’re one of the most sustainable breweries in the country; their Mills River, NC brewery is the only LEED Platinum-certified brewery in the US, and over 99.5% of the brewery’s total waste is diverted from landfills.
Visitors to the main brewery in Chico park under 10,751 solar panels that, along with their natural gas-powered Capstone microturbine system, provide 90% of the brewery’s energy needs. Sierra Nevada also operates their own CO2 recapturing and water treatment systems, they rely on high efficiency brewing equipment to monitor resource usage with razor-sharp precision and they fuel their beer delivery trucks with spent vegetable oil they convert to biodiesel in an on-site processor.
But that’s just a few of the measures Sierra Nevada takes to keep their business as green as possible. To learn more about the sustainable wonderlands of their Chico, CA and Mills River, NC locations, check out these interactive maps of the breweries.
For Allagash, which achieved Certified B Corp status in 2019, environmental stewardship begins locally. In 2017, the brewery pledged to use 1 million pounds of Maine-grown grain per year in their beers by 2021 (a goal they’re well on their way to meeting), and their spring seasonal this year, Crosspath, was not only USDA-certified organic, but also made with Maine-grown oats, buckwheat, base malt, hops and granola from Maine-based GrandyOats.
And Allagash is working towards sustainability outside the brew kettle too: in 2015, they installed solar panels at the brewery and as of 2019, 99.8% of waste they create is kept out of landfills via reuse and recycling. They also work to educate customers and employees on social responsibility topics like composting, local farming and how to recycle packaging from Allagash.
You can learn more about Allagash’s sustainability programs here.
These Scottish brewers always go above and beyond, and their approach to sustainability is no different. In August, BrewDog announced that they are officially carbon negative, meaning that they remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit. They are the first internationally sold beer brand to reach carbon negative status.
As part of their efforts to “nail [their] colors to the mast” when it comes to tackling climate change, BrewDog has purchased a 2,050 acre site in the Scottish Highlands where the company will plant one million trees and restore 650 acres of peatland over the next few years. They’ve also begun the process of converting their British bars to wind power and they’re investing in local brewing sites to shorten their supply chain.
You can read more about BrewDog’s plan to “Make Earth Great Again” here.
Dogfish Head has a history of bringing attention to environmental issues, from their longtime support of The Nature Conservancy to achieving “Ocean Friendly Certified” status at both of their Rehoboth Beach brew pubs. But this Delaware brewery refuses to rest on their laurels, and has come up with a delightfully off-centered way to highlight the challenges brewers — and all of us — face due to climate change.
Earlier this month, Dogfish Head announced the special, brewpub only release of their newest project, Re-Gen-Ale, the first traceably sourced beer to address climate change through agriculture. The beer was brewed with the help of Indigo Carbon, a program that provides growers with a financial incentive to store carbon in their soils (therefore removing it from the atmosphere and lessening the impact of global warming). Through Indigo’s Grain Marketplace, a platform used to connect growers and buyers of crops, Dogfish was able to secure the ingredients for Re-Gen-Ale, including sustainable wheat grown with regenerative farming.
You can read more about the process of creating Re-Gen-Ale here.
Though Firestone Walker has kept to the mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle” since they began brewing with recycled equipment from the Firestone family winery, the California brewery has stepped up their commitment to the environment in the last few years. The brewery’s processed plastics, aluminum, glass and cardboard are now 100 percent recycled, and they save energy as well as power during the brew by utilizing kettle steam recovery systems and capturing heat during the wort cooling process. Another essential part of their sustainability program is The Boneyard — a storage area for old equipment that is repurposed in various projects, like the reclaimed city water tanks that the brewery now uses in their wastewater treatment facility.
Earlier this year, Firestone Walker also announced their plan to build a large solar array at the brewery that will generate 4,570 MWh (megawatt hours) of electricity each year and offset about 80% of the brewery’s energy needs.
To learn more about Firestone Walker’s sustainability efforts, click here.
Peak Brewing was founded with the mission to bring organic, sustainable brews with the very best ingredients to the people. Since they’re now the #1 organic craft brewer in the world, it seems safe to say they’ve succeeded.
The Maine-based brewery sources all of their ingredients from organic farms in the Northeast, and all of their beers are USDA-certified organic, but they don’t stop there. Peak spreads the message of organic farming and local sourcing by spotlighting farms they work with and helping the agricultural community in their area transition to organic. In 2009, Peak helped Maine farmers cultivate commercial hops for the first time since 1880, and you can bet those hops were pesticide-free. In fact, the brewery helps keep 205,775 pounds (93.45 tons) of toxic persistent pesticides and chemicals off the soil every year, and that number continues to grow.
You can learn more about Peak, their mission and the sustainable farms they work with here.