10 American Beer Companies That Think (and Act) Green

July 5, 2011 Seven comments View all articles in General

Our article Green Beer Minus the Food Coloring informs you about the environmental impacts of beer production and encourages beer drinkers to try more organic, “craft” varieties. What that article doesn't mention is that it's possible to drink regular beer while still being good to the planet, as long as you know which environmentally sustainable breweries to buy from. In fact, some subscribe to the logic that one can offset their carbon footprint entirely by drinking beer produced in a sustainable fashion. While we're not completely sold on that idea here at ChasingGreen, as it would require one to drink an awful lot of beer, drinking beer that's been responsibly produced is certainly much better than the alternative. And that's why we're providing you with a list of some of the most sustainable brewing companies, along with their individual green actions.

THE MOST SUSTAINABLE AMERICAN BREWERIES

Brooklyn Brewing Company: This 100 percent wind-powered facility, located in Brooklyn, New York, produces about 1.6 million gallons of beer each year and saves 335,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

New Belgium Brewing Company: This Fort Collins, Colorado-based brewery is 70 percent wind-powered. The plant has also developed an alternative power source for the remaining 30 percent of its sustainable energy by reclaiming wastewater, cultivating its bacteria, and combusting the methane. In addition, the brewery cleans and re-filters the water during the cooling process of brewing, and then gives the water back to the city for residential use.

Coors Brewing Company: As our Pros and Cons of Aluminum cans article will tell you, Coors often receives attention for being the first to develop recyclable beer cans. But that isn't the only sustainable action behind this Golden, Colorado-based company, which also happens to be one of the largest brewers in the world – they also sell ethanol, the by-product of breweries, to refineries that then resell it to green gas stations, or those that cater to eco-friendly drivers. Coors has successfully reduced ethanol distribution to the surrounding area in a manner completely unparalleled by its competitors.

Stone Brewing Company: Stone Brewery has covered its Escondido, California facility's exterior with 1500 solar panels and has, since installation, cut its energy bills in half and offset an estimated 538,000 pound s of carbon emissions (a number with an estimated equivalent to planting 204 acres of trees). Stone Brewery also uses bio-diesel delivery trucks to distribute its beer and brand products around the west coast.

Odell Brewing Company: Odell has set a goal to actively reduce green gas and does so through waste reduction, recycling, and the utilization of renewable energy sources. The 100 percent wind-powered, Fort Collins, Colorado-based brewery's ceilings are lined with skylights and dramatically reduce CO2 emissions. While the company encourages its employees to bike to work and/or carpool, and uses delivery trucks that run on bio-diesel (which is biodegradable and emits 78 percent less CO2 than standard fuel).

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company: This second largest craft brewery in the nation is nearly 100 percent solar-powered, utilizing a system of solar grids with the capability of producing 1.4 megawatts of AC power. The overall hope of this Chico, California-based brewing company is that the surplus energy created by their system will eventually be made available to neighboring businesses that rely on an overloaded power grid. As a participant and signer of the California Climate Action Registry, Sierra Nevada also works with a consortium of green businesses to track, report, and reduce greenhouse emissions statewide.

Great Lakes Brewing Company: This Cleveland, Ohio-based, environmentally-progressive brewery has instituted a “Zero Waste Initiative” aimed at making use of the by-products generated from the brewing process. The hope of Great Lakes' management is that eventually 100 percent of the brewery's resources will be used in a closed loop, subscribing to the maxim: “Take, Make, Remake.” Additionally, their delivery trucks run on vegetable oil, all their packaging is recyclable, they support sustainable urban renewal projects, and they only use water from the Great Lakes region.

Full Sail Brewing Company: Based in Hood River, Oregon, this second largest craft brewer in the state cuts down on energy use and water consumption by 20 percent simply by compressing its work week into ten-hour shifts. Full Sail also installed energy-efficient lighting and air compressors to reduce their energy use by 400,000 kWh each year. And because Full Sail takes care of its Mt. Hood water by implementing practices that reduce water consumption, they use 3.1 million fewer gallons of water per year.

Eel River Brewing Company: California's first brewery to be certified organic, Eel River's brewing facility in Scotia is powered completely by bio-mass, renewable energy. The power used to brew the beer there is produced from mill leftovers such as wood chips, bark, scrap lumber, and clippings. In addition, its Fortuna-located brewery's pretreatment facility lessens the load off the city's actual water treatment plant.

Alaskan Brewing Company: This Juneau-based brewery is committed to exercising environmental stewardship in every aspect of its business. Its aim is to have a zero-net negative effect upon the environment by reclaiming and reusing “at least as much waste and emissions as [they] produce.” Alaskan Brewing was the first craft brewery in the United States to install and operate a carbon dioxide reclamation system that captures and cleans CO2 and uses it to package the beer, and to purge oxygen from holding tanks. This system prevents approximately 783,000 pounds of global warming-contributing CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. Alaskan also saves 65,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year through its installation and use of a mash filter press.

Comments:

Granola Girl on July 6, 2011 at 3:21 a.m.

Great post! I had no idea Coors Brewing Company did those things! And I love Great Lakes - it is so good to see a Midwest company showing that good things can be done in this region (plus, their beer is tasty too)! :)

Mb on July 6, 2011 at 3:50 p.m.

We love Great Lakes & Sierra Nevada beers. Have visited the Great Lakes brewery, love it! Hurray for all the breweries mentioned here for being good stewards of our planet and for making some darn good brews!

Gail on July 16, 2011 at 11:39 a.m.

Do you think that you could do an article on Canadian breweries?

Christian Heinold on July 16, 2011 at 1:01 p.m.

I'm shocked that Anderson Valley Brewing Company didn't make this list. Their brewery is solar powered!

Chasing Green on July 16, 2011 at 5:07 p.m.

Gail - That's a good idea. We'll see if we can't work that on to the upcoming article list.

Christian - Thanks for mentioning Anderson Valley. We're actually working on creating a much larger list of green brewing companies and we'll make sure they get included.

Rainer Dammers on July 18, 2011 at 10:33 a.m.

This is great stuff. For how many breweries in the US is this information available? Is the impact of transportation of the ingredients to the breweries as well as the beer to the consumer taken into account? Ideally you'd have a fully sustainable brewery in your town where you drink it fresh from tab (beats any other form form packaging in taste every time !!) or from a growler in the local grocery store.
Ideally there should be some information about the sustainability combined with Google Map/Places type application on mapping like http://beermapping.com/maps/maps.php?m=southeastern#lat=35.99189652755323&lng=-78.91651153564453&z=5 or http://www.brewerymap.com/#t=s&a=27516&r=25 to reduce impact to an absolute minimum. I'd love to see a sustainability category as part of the Places app on my Smartphone.

Chasing Green on July 19, 2011 at 10:14 a.m.

Thanks for the thoughts Ranier. We're starting work on a much larger list of sustainable breweries though it will likely take us some time to gather the information.

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