Sustainable Brewing

Minneapolis’ craft breweries are a positive force for the City, providing a significant economic impact, providing good jobs, and building community. They are also environmentally aware and working towards sustainability. A dollar spent for a Minneapolis craft beer generates $6.69 in economic activity in the community. A dollar spent for a can of Bud, Miller or Coors stimulates $3.88 in economic activity. Read my article Economic Impact of Craft Beer on Minneapolis.

My Growler piece ( last fall on the impact of climate change on beer led me to the question, “How is beer impacting the climate?” Probably a lot but not as much as it used to. From the mid-17th century well into the 20th coal-fired breweries belched sulfurous CO2 laden gray smoke onto the surrounding environs, roughly producing 3.49 lbs. of CO2 for every gallon of beer produced and using upwards of 20 gallons of water to make one gallon of beer. As Pogo said: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Brewers have gotten better. The top ten firms worldwide account for 65% of beer sold. Eight of the top ten firms, accounting for 56% of the total share of throat, have taken significant steps to promote sustainability and address climate change. Anheuser-Busch has solar collectors at three of its US plants, eight of their plants recover biogas for fuel from their waste water, their plant in Fort Collins Colorado has a 4.1 MW windmill, and their breweries are pushing the gallons of water per gallon of beer ratio below 3.5. Asahi has solar on two of their Japanese breweries, collects biogas for fuel from the wastewater at all 9 of its Japanese breweries, is converting excess CO2 into fuel at eight of its nine breweries and has purchased renewable energy credits to ensure that its beer is carbon neutral. Heineken has solar collectors (5.5 MW total) on 5 of its breweries, transforms waste water into biomass fuel at two, and in 2014 announced that its water conservation efforts saved the corporation $83.4 million over the past 6 years. SAB Miller has cut global carbon emissions by 35% since 2008 – nearly one million tons. In 2015 they achieved $117 million in annual savings through energy and water efficiency compared with 2010. They reduced their lbs. CO2e/ gallon of beer from 0.86 in 2014 to 0.78 in 2015. Carlsberg’s 2014 global CO2 emissions are down 5% from 2013 and they have reduced their global water use to around 3.3 gallons of water per gallon of beer. In 2013 Tsingtao reduced its energy consumption by 4.3% from 2012 and its water consumption by 7.3% while increasing their overall production by 8.5%. They have reduced coal consumption per unit by 7.2%. In its 2014 Corporate sustainability report, Molson Coors reported that it saved 1.4 billion gallons of water from 2008-2014, have achieved a 99.99% corporate recycling rate, have saved 800,000,000 kilowatt hours of electricity from 2008-2014 and now operate 7 landfill-free breweries. Their Irwindale California MillerCoors subsidiary boasts a 3.2 MW solar array. Kirin’s 2013 CO2 emissions from Japanese manufacturing and distribution operations were reduced 55% from 1990 levels.

While the mega-brewers have the most impact, small craft brewers can have big local impacts. I scoured the Internet for information on sustainable craft brewers. I have summarized my results here.

Sustainable Brewer Profiles:

Abita Brewing Company

Bell's Beer Susainability

New Belgium Brewing

Sierra Nevada

(c) 2016 Romancing The Foam