The “Green” Beer

No, I’m not going to be talking about the kind you drink on St. Patrick’s Day! I’m going to briefly talk about beer makers that are consciously pushing toward “self-sustaining brewing” by applying some practical, and sometimes money-saving, techniques to their everyday operations.

Sustainability is a term that has become widely used to describe the planning, design and implementation of green building and business strategies that promote the responsible use of natural resources, or sometimes defined as: “achieving a balanced union of ecological harmony, social enlightenment, and economic vitality”.

The green beer helps green sustainability

Even in my home town, high in the Colorado Rockies, the local brewery has joined the ranks of the green sustainability! The Aspen Brewing Company (ABC) is making great strides by implementing measures which minimizes their carbon footprint on the old mining town, turned world-class resort. The ABC uses wise water use practices by recycling the water used to chill the beer as it comes out of the brew kettle. They also sell the spent grain used to make the beer to local farms, where they raise pigs, chickens, and cattle.

These well-fed creatures are then sold to local markets and restaurants throughout the Aspen area. Another strategy employed by ABC is their “growler” program. A growler is a re-usable glass jug that holds about a six-pack. These jugs are used over and over again, thus reducing the use of cans and single-use bottles.

The New Belgium Brewing Company (NBB) based in Fort Collins, Colorado is larger-scale example of the sustainable brewing trend. Known as one of the “greenest” of the large volume beer-makers, New Belgium is developing a Zero Emissions operations plan and is moving towards drastic reductions in green house gas emissions and water use intensity. New Belgium recycles its water and sends brewing waste to local farms. They also claim to be one of the world’s largest single-user of wind power. NBB powers its entire Fort Collins facility with electricity from wind power purchased from wind farms in Wyoming. NBB installed a 200kW photovoltaic array in 2010 capable of producing 264,000 kW hours per year. The company also utilizes the methane gas produced by microbes which clean the production wastewater to power a motor which provides up to 15% of the production plant’s energy needs.

The Climate Conservancy, in cooperation with New Belgium, actually prepared a report on the carbon footprint of one particular beer: Fat Tire Amber Ale. This report quantifies and analyzes green house gases emitted across the full life cycle of this popular brew.

The report is very informative, except for the factthat it never once mentions how tasty the beer is! NBB maintains an informative website at

Sustainability is the latest “buzz word” but has real ramifications for the environment and the long-term viability of mankind. Beer-makers, along with other major industries, can greatly benefit the planet by promoting the wise use of natural resources, and the core principles of Sustainability, in their day to day practices.

As it is for most important changes, it’s the grass roots beginnings of companies like Aspen Brewing Company and New Belgium Brewing Company, and their commitment to sustainable choices, that end up being the catalyst for long-term important environmental, cultural and economic benefits for all of earth’s inhabitants.

So next time you trot down to the local liquor store, consider all of your choices and read the labels.

Choosing a sustainable “green” beer can make a difference!

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