Drinking Responsibly – The Sustainability of Craft Beer

Barley, Yeast, Hops, Beards, Independent, Local, Handcrafted, … Sustainability?

Along with all the other great qualities of craft breweries, social responsibility and environmental stewardship seems to be ingrained in the culture too. Craft breweries are appearing on every corner and we can’t get enough. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better…BAM!… sustainability. And they might be around for the long hall.

A quick shout out to the 90’s – thanks for fostering the craft brewery revolution – we have that and much more to thank you for.

This chart from the brewers association shows the explosion:

Growth of Craft Breweries Over Time | prch

What was once a garage hobby has blossomed into a booming industry. Craft brew is dominated by young men who started brewing beer in their garage for their friends, which is why it comes as no surprise that the small time community culture they embody is an essential ingredient in the craft beer scene.  

We’re talking about a generation of kids that was deeply impacted by the environmental damage of previous generations. A generation that despises cubicles and strives to reform the old way of business.  

They understand that profit isn’t the only bottom line in business. That’s not to say it isn’t a factor, because craft beer is a big industry. It contributed $55.7 Billion to the US economy in 2014.

But craft breweries seem to see the big picture. Not only does being green improve the way they are perceived, but it makes business sense. The price of fossil fuels and water are only expected to increase, so investing in efficient operations and renewable resources is a pretty easy decision. 

Finally, you have to please your customers and the hip millennials are out to eat and drink local. As long as craft brew drinkers care, craft brewers will care.

A Few Sustainability Highlights from Progressive Craft Breweries

Alaskan Brewing

  • CO2 recovery system prevents over 1 million pounds of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere each year. That’s the equivalent of the emissions from 45,000 gallons of gas.
  • Mash filter press – saved over 1 million gallons of water and 60,000 gallons of fuel in its first year of operation
  • Spent grain steam broiler – turns used grain into energy preventing them from having to ship it out and cutting their fuel usage by up to 70%

Stone Brewing

  • Reclaims 75,000 gallons of water a day
  • Solar contributes to about 20% of their energy usage (1,561 solar modules)
  • They are the largest purchasers of local produce in San Diego County
  • Participate in meatless monday at their restaurant (saves 110,448 lbs of CO2 annually)

New Belgium

  • They measure and publish their water, waste, and emissions metrics annually (check it out here)
  • 99.9% of their waste is diverted from the landfill
  • 12.6% of their energy is produced on site with solar and biogas
  • In 1998 the staff voluntarily took a cut from their bonus checks to subscribe to he Fort Collins Utilities Wind Power Program after learning that the biggest contributor to their carbon footprint was the city’s coal-fired power plant.

Sierra Nevada

  • Their Chico brewery gets 20% of its energy from solar (10,751 panels)
  • They generate electricity from microturbines that run off natural gas and biogas produced by their own wastewater treatment plant
  • CO2 recovery systems capture CO2 produced in the fermentation process
  • 99.8% of their waste is diverted from the landfill
  • They capture rainwater at their Mills River location and utilize it for non-potable uses around the brewery

I know you didn’t need another excuse to drink beer, but this might be your best one yet.



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I am a minimalist, environmentalist, and conscious consumer with a background in environmental studies, conservation, and tech. I founded prch to help others be more sustainable and realize an alternative to consumerism.