Craft Breweries have led the beer industry to grow and evolve in exciting new ways. And we aren’t just referring to supersized breweries like Coors, Budweiser or Miller. Consumers continue to gravitate towards more complex flavors, styles and the highquality, unique taste of craft beer.
The craft beer industry’s smarter, more sustainable energy practices are among the most impressive in business today.
Back in 1980, there were eight craft breweries in the United States; by the end of 2012, there were 2,347. Independently owned and separate from the “big brother” breweries, craft breweries produced 13.24 million U.S. beer barrels in 2012 (one beer barrel equals 31 gallons).
That’s no surprise to everyone that partook of the microbrewery and branding explosions of the 1990s and 2000s. Yet, it’s the constant use of green energy, as well as extensive sustainability measures, that are most impressive.
“Brewing by nature is an innovative and inventive industry to be in. Everybody is constantly inventing new beer, or trying a new recipe and working with different ingredients. That same sort of philosophy applies to resource preservation and sustainability methods,” Cheri Chastain, sustainability coordinator for the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., said.
Based in Chico, CA, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. won the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Green Business of The Year” award in 2010. The state of the art brewery has the largest privately owned solar installation in the U.S., providing 20% of their power. Sierra Nevada is also the only brewery in the nation to house Hydrogen Fuel cells, providing roughly 40% of their power using non-combustion technology. The company preserves natural gas in the boilers by using a Bio-Gas Recovery System.
Live dials on Sierra Nevada’s website display their energy creation for all to see; at any given point in time, they can exceed 100% of needed power.
Although much smaller than Sierra Nevada, employee-owned Full Sail Brewing Co. of Hood River, Oregon, has achieved noteworthy green energy and sustainability progress of its own.
Brewing at Full Sail is part of a way of life for many, including Executive Brewmaster and co-owner Jamie Emmerson. The brewery lies beneath Mount Hood, on a mile-wide section of the Columbia River. Kitesurfers and windsurfers take advantage of the same 30-knot winds that power the 140 blocks of energy Full Sail purchases locally each month. This use of wind power reduces the company’s carbon dioxide emissions by 168 tons per year.
Full Sail takes care of their precious Mount Hood water by implementing practices that reduce water consumption by 3.1 million gallons each year. While average breweries consume 6 to 8 gallons of water per gallon of beer produced, they average 2.5 gallons. Full Sail implements an extensive recycling program while utilizing onsite waste treatment. This provides farmers in the Hood River Valley with over 160 tons of spent grain per week. It also allows them to divert over 97 percent of its waste to landfills.
Back to the lifestyle of Hood River. Full Sail operates on a compressed work week of four ten-hour shifts, which reduces power consumption and water use by 20%. This schedule allows employees to get out and explore the scenic Columbia River Gorge and its endless activities.
Feature Photo Courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewery.