Brewed Responsibly: How Smart Craft Brewers Are Cleaning Up Our Favorite Beverage
There’s nothing like a frosty glass of delicious beer. But, the process of making that refreshing libation generates a good amount of waste and wastewater. Craft brewers are increasingly embracing sustainable solutions, including reducing their water and energy consumption so they can do better by the environment.
Savvy brewers know that making sustainable choices can also be wise, economically.
“If you are smart, sustainable efforts can actually save money,” says Sam Hendler, co-founder of Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers of Framingham, Massachusetts and president of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild. “You don’t necessarily have to choose between the sustainable and the cost-effective choice because an efficient operation uses less material to produce the same yield.”
Reducing water and energy consumption
Brewers use “massive amounts of water,” Hendler says. “But if you are looking at what you are using it for and ask if you can recapture some of it, you might find a way to reduce that.”
For example, Jack’s Abby used to rinse the outside of its cans before filling them to make sure there was no dust or contaminants. The company recently installed an ionized air blower, which requires zero water for the same task, reducing water use by 36,000 gallons per year. And don’t forget the associated disposal costs for that water. Per Hendler, the new line paid for itself in less than eight months.
Reducing energy use can also significantly improve brewers’ sustainability efforts and bottom line. Brewing beer requires boiling water, which produces steam that can be captured and reused. Some larger brewers, including Boston’s Mass Bay Brewing Company (aka Harpoon Brewery), use combined heat and power systems to generate steam and electricity onsite to power their plants.
This is a large investment not accessible to all breweries, but plenty of opportunity exists to reduce energy usage in other ways. For example, Wachusett Brewing Company in Westminster, MA powers its brewing operation using renewable energy from a Farm Powered anaerobic digester on a local farm. The company also sends its brewing wastewater to fuel that same anaerobic digester, fully closing the sustainability loop. Inside the digester, the wastewater combines with dairy manure and food and beverage waste from other sources to produce renewable energy.