Beer has been a fan favorite of the human race ever since ancient Egyptians started brewing ale thousands of years ago. It’s great after a long day at work, when out on the town, or even paired with a nice meal. Enjoying an ice cold brew is one of the great pleasures of life, and is a part of the American tradition. In fact, the average American consumes over 20 gallons of the good stuff every year! If you’re as much of a beer lover as the average American then there are steps that you can take to make your Friday night not only fun, but eco-friendly too.
Glass or Aluminum?
The aluminum beer can isn’t only for cheap brews anymore. The craft beer renaissance has created a gamut of canned choices that blow larger commercial beers out of the water. In fact, one of the simplest ways to go green when drinking beer is to lose the glass bottle and pick up a can. The easy-to-ship design and reduced weight of an aluminum can makes the distribution process more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. Not only that, but the lower cost and easier recycling process solidifies the aluminum can’s rank as top dog over glass.
If you want to up your green game from aluminum cans, then invest in a growler. Conveniently sold in sizes ranging from 32 oz. to a whopping 2 liter, the growler has become the canvas grocery bag of craft beers. The ability to reuse one of these bad boys can cut down on the fuel and pollution expended on the constant process of canning and bottling. This growing trend is becoming popular across the U.S., and is popping up right in our own backyard. Craft Brewed Nashville, Hops and Crafts, The Filling Station, Corsair Taproom and Frugal MacDoogal are all excellent spots to fill up a growler and take the taste of draft beer home with you.
Nothing is quite like the fresh taste of a draft right out of the tap. If you’re like me and love going to a pub and having a pint then you are in luck, because Mother Earth loves it too! One of the most eco-friendly ways to imbibe your favorite libation is to get it right from the keg. If you’re feeling extra green you could even visit your own neighborhood bar, where everybody knows your name. Since you’re in the neighborhood, why not cut down on your transportation emissions by taking a leisurely walk there and back as well!
WHO’S YOUR BREWMASTER?
Home, Sweet Foam
If you want complete control in maximizing your eco-friendly beer endeavors, nothing gives you more say in what you’re drinking than making it yourself! Buying a home brewing kit, not only allows you to choose what you’re brewing, but allows you to take all the eco-friendly steps that you wish your favorite beer did. It gives you the freedom to compost, grow your own hops, grains, and spices, conserve water, and eliminate transportation costs. Plus as soon as you’ve invested in your kit once, you can reuse it as many times as you like, and drink efficiently for the foreseeable future.
Think Globally, Drink Locally
Drinking local not only gives you a taste of the Nashville flavor, but also helps the environment. By drinking locally-brewed beers you can severely reduce the size of the carbon footprint that is associated with the shipping and distribution of beer all across the planet. Grabbing a local brew also increases your chances of ingesting fresher ingredients from nearby sources. Don’t forget that drinking locally also helps the already vibrant brewing culture of Nashville!
Organic beer? Really? Yes, really – your body and the environment will thank you in the long run. Hops, the crown jewel of beer, can be difficult to grow organically on a large scale because of it’s high susceptibility to insects and other pests. However, drinking organic beer guarantees that you, and the environment, are coming into less contact with insecticides and other industrial chemicals on a day-to-day basis. Finally, an organic drink that doesn’t have kale in it!
In fact, there are a few Nashville breweries that are dedicated to the idea that green beer isn’t only for St. Patrick’s Day:
Tennessee Brew Works
This fine establishment boasts a brew system that is uniquely designed to offer a higher level of efficiency and automation than is typical for a brewery of its size. These savings equate to a more efficient use of energy and raw materials. In fact, this brew system can use up to 50% less water, 20% less raw materials, and 20% less energy than a traditional brew system.
Little Harpeth Brewing
Little Harpeth Brewing is relentless in its efforts to become as green as possible. When starting the company, Little Harpeth built their offices from reclaimed and reused materials, and recycled anything that went unused. They are also focused on energy efficiency through use of horizontal bright tanks, which cut down on the processing time of their brews and reduces energy consumption during the brewing process. Little Harpeth has also partnered with us on our Harpeth River cleanup events each of the last two summers, doing their part to support volunteerism and healthy waterways in Middle Tennessee! Check out this Q&A session we had with Michael Kwas, Co-Founder and Visionary of Little Harpeth Brewing:
- How exactly do the horizontal bright tanks help the efficiency of the brewing system? Essentially, it reduces energy consumption. The bright tanks are the last stage in the process known as conditioning. Horizontal tanks allow a three foot drop for yeast, compared to the ten foot or higher drop for vertical tanks. These horizontal tanks come from the German brewing tradition and generally make the process shorter and more energy efficient. Also, Little Harpeth’s boiling process is low energy, which reduces the level of natural gas consumption.
- What drove LHB to make eco-friendliness and sustainability a part of your business objectives?
The Little Harpeth team is very into conservation. Their down-to-earth business mentality assists the brewery with green efficiency, and helps keep the moths out of their wallets. Michael Kwas is a hardworking bootstrapper, with a home learned skill for using only what he needs, and believes that “being green is a combination of moral obligation and efficiency.”
- Does LHB have any plans for incorporating any green measures in the future?
Chicken Scratch Pilsner, currently their most popular beer, uses corn in the brewing process. Instead of buying cheap bulk ingredients, Little Harpeth opted to buy from a local miller in Dixon, who supplies them with non-GMO white corn sourced from organic farms. The local miller is using the funds from corn sale to invest in fixing a water wheel to power eco-friendly milling stones. The brewery plans on using this resource in the future for their Chicken Scratch Pilsner. Little Harpeth is planning on eventually acquiring a biodiesel delivery vehicle when funding comes together. They are also currently utilizing solar heating to naturally raise the temperature of water. The black piping that holds the water outside draws heat from the sun and helps cut down on energy used to bring water to a boil during the brewing process.
- Are there any organizations that Little Harpeth is especially active in?
Michael donates time and beer to support Harpeth River Watershed Association, a local non-profit that helps look after the health and cleanliness of the Harpeth River. Little Harpeth Brewing donates time and resources to help promote the organization’s events, and they help with several of their river cleanups as well.
OTHER ECO-FRIENDLY BREWS
Traveler Beer Co.
Travel Beer Company is based in Burlington, VT. and does it’s part to better the environment by being the official beer sponsor of Team Green Adventures all year this year! We’re partnering with Traveler Beer Co. to bring you eco-related volunteer events, from tree plantings to community garden days, throughout 2015. Any beer that helps support good causes is worth the try. In fact, sipping on a delicious shandy sounds like the perfect way to unwind after a long day of volunteering!
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is lauded for its sustainable brewing practices, and in 2010 the brewery was named “Green Business of the Year” by the EPA. Sierra Nevada puts its money where its mouth is, and has invested in over 10,000 solar cell arrays on the brewery’s rooftop and parking lot.These solar cells power all of the daily operations at the brewery with enough left over to enable an electric vehicle charging station for employees and visitors.
New Belgium Brewing maintains a firm focus on operational sustainability and is currently aiming towards being a one hundred percent wind-powered operation. Also, about 10% of the brewery’s electric power comes from methane gas collected from an on-site water treatment plant in lieu of being released into the atmosphere.
Stone Brewery has covered its facility’s facade with 1500 solar panels and has cut its energy bills in half and offset an estimated 538,000 pounds of carbon emissions. That’s the equivalent of planting 204 acres of trees! Stone Brewery also uses bio-diesel delivery trucks to distribute its beer and branded products around the west coast.
Next time you get a hankering for suds, remember these green tips, and use this article as an excuse to go out and have a drink!
– Taylor (Team Green’s Spring Intern)