by Mike Lamardo
There's a revolution happening in American city after city: craft breweries delivering carefully created beers for the product- and community-conscious consumer. The past several years we've witnessed an explosion of breweries in all fifty states, and besides the high-quality beers that they offer, many of these breweries are putting an emphasis sustainability in both the production of beer and on educating their consumers on what they can do to better their communities.
Many craft breweries are embracing environmentally-friendly practices, and several have gotten large enough to be able to spread the word about better production and agricultural practices while still staying small enough to practice what they preach. Here is a list on some of those breweries – with many of their products available in many states.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company – Chico, California
Founded in 1980 by Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi, Sierra Nevada become one of the most successful craft breweries in America. Their signature Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a big hit nationwide, and their other beers such as Torpedo IPA continue to set the standard of a widespread beer that doesn't sacrifice quality.
It isn't just the beer that the people at Sierra Nevada pride themselves on but also their fantastic environmental record. The US Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged Sierra Nevada as the “Green Business of the Year” in 2010 for their efforts to practice sustainably.
Some of the noteworthy things that Sierra Nevada has done to their brewery include:
- A massive solar power installation that according to the website includes 2,288 photovoltaic panels creating an output of 503 kW DC – one of the biggest independently-owned solar installations in the nation.
- They are experimenting with the biogas generated at their onsite water treatment facility to replace the natural gas currently powering their fuel cells.
- HotRod Composting System. Between all of the food from their restaurant, spent hops, grains, and paper materials, Sierra Nevada produces a lot of organic byproduct. Thanks to their HotRod Composting System, they are able to feed up to 5,000 pounds of material into compost which then goes back to their hop fields.
- One of the largest purchasers of organic hops in the nation. They even grow their own hops for their Chico Estate Harvest Ale.
This is a mere introduction to what they have done, and they have devoted an entire section of their website to their environmental efforts (including live updates of their energy output from their solar panels!), which you can find on their site.
New Belgium Brewing Company – Fort Collins, Colorado
The state of Colorado has been a stronghold of craft beer, with dozens of breweries getting their start in various cities throughout the state. Of them, New Belgium has gone on to be one of the largest, and - like Sierra Nevada - has a widespread distribution with their popular Fat Tire amber ale.
Their motto proudly states “Alternatively Empowered. Employee Owned,” and this is absolutely true. From it's beginning in 1991, New Belgium has remained independent, and the employees all get part of the share. New Belgium is also very open about their sustainability practices through various reports that anyone can access on their website.
Interesting Environmental Facts About New Belgium (according to their executive summary of 2010)
- 200 kW photovoltaic array on their rooftop which accounts for three percent of their electricity at 264,000 kWh.
- Has a landfill diversion rate of 99.9%
- 14% of the power from New Belgium comes from the waste it produces. This is thanks to the Process Water Waste Treatment plant that remains onsite at New Belgium
- Considered a bicycle-friendly environment. Learn more about New Belgium's advocacy with their Tour de Fat
- Packaging contains anywhere from 88% to 100% recycled content.
Learn more about New Belgium and their efforts on their website
Uinta Brewing Company – Salt Lake City, Utah
Pronounced "you-in-ta," Uinta Brewing Company has been getting more notice in the craft beer community for their distinctive brews such as Hop Notch IPA (one of my personal favorites), Hyve Honey Ale (brewed with local and organic honey) and their bold Dubhe Black IPA (not for the faint).
- Uinta was distinguished as the first 100% wind-powered business in the state of Utah in 2011 and has gone on to educate and promote the advantages of wind power to residents through the Pacificorp Blue Sky Program.
- Since the installation of a solar-electric panel in 2011, the energy make-up of Uinta has gone on to be 85% wind and 15% solar-electric.
- Spent grains from the beer production process get donated to farmers for feed to cattle, pigs, and other farm animals. This is a growing practice in many breweries, not just Uinta.
- Just two days ago, Uinta announced they will start canning their beers – something that is growing in the craft beer community due to ease of recycling, and production.
- A good number of Uinta's beers are part of their Organic Line, made from organic ingredients. Some include the Hyve Ale (as mentioned above), Wyld Extra Pale Ale, and their Monkshine Belgian Blonde Ale.
Uinta seems to be growing in size, and it is exciting to see how they will continue to evolve with their conscientious practices.
But Wait! There Are Many Others!
The three breweries mentioned above are just a small percentage of craft breweries utilizing sustainable production practices. The list really could go on and on, and if you're a beer drinker hopefully this will encourage you to see what breweries near you are doing for the environment. With more than 2,000 craft breweries now operational in the US, there may be one closer to you than you think.
Michael is a musician, writer, and of course, a craft beer geek. He is continuing to discover how craft breweries positively affect the surrounding communities. He has a blog about craft beer in the Washington Times Communities, and also writes for DX3 about entertainment, and ZME Music as a critic of the social context of music.
Image Credit: Craft Beer photo via Bigstock