A Sustainable Beer by a Sustainable Brewery
A sustainable beer on a Sunday Afternoon
When one person drinks a beer while watching football on a Sunday afternoon, thoughts of sustainability do not come to mind. Except for the truly dedicated.
My favorite beer is Sierra Pale Ale because of its smooth taste. As a bonus, its producer, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company based out of Chico, California, is one of the most sustainable beer producers anywhere. These are the reasons they are so green…these are not all-inclusive.
Brewing beer as sustainably as possible
Water is the primary ingredient in beer and a vitally important resource for life; therefore, conserving water is of the highest importance. The company measures their water as a ratio of incoming water to barrel of beer packaged. Some methods to reduce water usage include using non-water-based lubricants on conveyor belts in packaging operations, optimizing and automating clean-in-place (CIP) systems to maintain tank cleanliness while using less water, converting to drip irrigation instead of traditional sprinkler systems, and recovering pipe cool-down water after hot sanitation loops for other uses.
The company’s fundamental approach to waste is to “close the loop” whenever possible. The company looks for opportunities to bring materials leaving their facility—such as heat, water, and packaging—back into their production process. An astounding 99.8% of total solid waste gets diverted from the landfill, recovered through reuse, recycling or composting.
There are two ways Sierra Nevada utilizes renewable energy sources to manufacture beer without utilizing fossil fuels. First, there are two 200kW Capstone microturbines fueled by biogas produced anaerobically during the wastewater treatment process. The Capstone system can generate nearly 100% of the electricity needed to run the Chico facility. Second, solar panels are installed atop the packaging hall and beer warehouse and is complemented by small, tree-like solar panel canopies dotting the visitors parking lot.
The company insists on the highest quality and freshest ingredients for every beer they brew by responsible farming. Only non-genetically modified barley and hops bred using traditional methods are used. Finally, all ales and lagers are made with whole-cone hops, which are the flowers of the hop plant in their most natural state, maintaining aromatic oils and resins inside.
Here’s to all the sustainable brew masters, and all they do to maintain our eternal buzzes while trying to help the planet. I can drink to that.