The beer brewing industry is a major economic driver in America, and it is already feeling the impacts of climate change. The leading brewers are finding innovative ways to integrate sustainability into their business practices and finding economic opportunity through investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste recapture, and sustainable sourcing. To highlight the steps they are taking and issue a call to action to others, brewers are signing the Climate Declaration.
The beer brewing industry is a major economic driver in America. There are more than 2,800 breweries in the U.S. responsible for $246.5 billion in economic output in 2012 alone. Directly and indirectly, breweries create more than 2 million American jobs. For every 1 job in a brewery, 45 indirect jobs are created in agriculture, transportation, distributing, business, packaging, machinery, and retail. But the effects of climate change are beginning to threaten the industry, putting both jobs and the future of great beer at risk.
Warmer temperatures and extreme weather events are harming the production of hops, a critical ingredient of beer that grows primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Rising demand and lower yields have driven the price of hops up by more than 250 percent over the past decade. Clean water resources, another key ingredient, are also becoming scarcer in the West as a result of climate-related droughts and reduced snow pack.
Watch the video below to learn how New Belgium Brewing is integrating sustainability into their business.
Here are more ways breweries are taking action to reduce their own environmental impact and tackle climate change:
Measuring their greenhouse gas emissions. Deschutes Brewery was the first craft brewery to operate by the Global Reporting Initiative standards and make its carbon footprint publicly available. New Belgium Brewing has completed a full life-cycle analysis on its most popular Fat Tire beer. Brewery Vivant also measures greenhouse gas emissions and has completed a life-cycle analysis of its FarmHand beer.
Using renewable energy. Allagash Brewery, Brewery Vivant, Deschutes Brewery, Odell Brewing, Redhook and Widmer Brothers use 100 percent renewable energy to generate electricity. New Belgium Brewing, Ninkasi Brewing and Kona Brewing Company have installed on-site solar arrays. Kona Brewing sources 50 percent of its electricity needs with a 645 kWh roof-top solar array.
Cutting energy use by recycling steam. Fremont Brewing and Odell Brewing capture steam from the brewing process and use it for heat.
Capturing methane. New Belgium Brewery and Smuttynose Brewery capture methane – a byproduct of their wastewater treatment process and a potent greenhouse gas – and use it to generate electricity. The captured methane provides New Belgium with 15 percent of the brewery’s electricity needs.
Cutting transportation emissions. Many breweries are cutting their transportation footprints by reducing packaging and choosing cans to lighten their loads. Guinness has partnered with the US EPA Smartways program that works with transportation carriers to reduce carbon emissions through better logistics.
Becoming LEED Certified Brewery Vivant became the first LEED-certified brewery in the United States in 2012, employing high-efficiency heating and cooling units. Smuttynose Brewing recently opened a LEED-gold certified pub in New Hampshire with LED on-demand lighting systems.
Breweries Take Action to Tackle Climate Change
The Alchemist (VT)
A small family-run brewery, whose opening coincided with Tropical Storm Irene causing significant damage to their operations, The Alchemist has rebounded with redoubled production efforts to perfect and satisfy demand for their flagship beer, Heady Topper, including
The Alchemist is able to lower the carbon footprint of their beer through local distribution and purchasing US-sourced hops.
The Alchemist sends spent grain to local farmers and uses spent wastewater with high organic content for composting.
A Moving Bed Bio-film Reactor for wastewater treatment at a new facility has already demonstrated its use in reducing the BOD and keeping pH levels consistent.
The brewery also includes a clear message on each of its Heady Topper beers that encourages consumers to recycle the can.
Allagash Brewing Company (ME)
Starting as New England’s original Belgian-style brewery in 1995 near Portland, Maine, the Allagash Brewery has since grown into a distinguished brand.
Allagash offsets 100 percent of its electricity usage through renewable energy credits. 92 percent of these energy purchases come from First Wind’s wind farm in Lackawanna, New York, which was the focus of the city’s Steel Winds (II) project.
Since 2013, Allagash has provided over 57 tons of spent grain to a local farmer for re-use as animal feed. Additionally, Allagash harvests used yeast by-products and pays local farms to utilize the by-product as fertilizer or as an animal feed supplement.
Allagash reduces strain on the Portland Water District by self-monitoring and keeping its processed liquid up to the proper specifications for water quality.
Aslan Brewing Company (WA)
Aslan Brewing Company is a local microbrewery committed to pushing the boundaries of craft beer while preserving the purity of brewing tradition.
Aslan Brewing Co. brews all 100% USDA Certified Organic beer and sources all supplies, materials, and ingredients as local as possible.
Aslan Brewing Co. trades spent grain with local farmers.
The Aslan Brewing Co. brewery and restaurant are located in a renovated historic building and was constructed with reused building materials.
Aspen Brewing Company (CO)
The Aspen Brewing Company has grown from a small and locally serving brewery into a Colorado brand, and the company is working to minimize its carbon footprint.
Aspen Brewing Company uses a brewing system that recycles water used to cool hot wort (beer before fermentation) and stores the warmed fresh water in an insulated tank to use in the next brew.
Aspen Brewing Company chooses its cans in part because they require less energy to produce, ship, and recycle.
Aspen Brewing Company works with local family farms and ranches to reuse spent grain to feed livestock and compost.
Brewery Vivant (MI)
Brewery Vivant is committed to considering all aspects on how their decisions affect the environment, their financial health, and the people around them. Set in a neighborhood setting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Brewery Vivant is excited to share their passion for beer, food and sustainability.
Every year, Brewery Vivant provides comprehensive “Beer the Change” reports on their sustainable goals. They have also performed an audit of the carbon footprint of their lead beer, Farm Hand, in order to better identify important areas to reduce their carbon footprint.
In 2012, Brewery Vivant became the first LEED-certified brewery in the United States. Their LEED-Silver facility features efficient heating and cooling units with CO2 sensors as well as design features such as rainfall capture to improve water quality and south-facing windows to reduce their energy needs.
100 percent of Brewery Vivant’s energy comes from renewable sources in Michigan through the Consumer’s Energy Green Generation program.
Deschutes Brewery (OR)
One of Oregon’s largest craft breweries, Deschutes Brewery operates by a strict commitment to environmental stewardship and responsibility.
Deschutes Brewery partnered with Oregon State University to become the first craft brewery to operate by Global Reporting Initiative sustainability standards, making their carbon footprint better-monitored and publicly available.
100% of the electricity used at the Deschutes Brewery is either renewable or offset through Pacific Power’s Blue Sky energy program.
In 2012, Deschutes Brewery conducted a plant-wide energy audit, also in cooperation with Oregon State University. The audit’s report led Deschutes to install new energy-efficient lighting throughout their entire facility.
Fremont Brewing Company (WA)
Located in Seattle, Fremont Brewing Company is serious about social, economic and environmental sustainability. They care for their employees, and care for the environment by reducing their carbon footprint through energy conservation and zero-waste generation.
Fremont Brewing Company uses generated steam for heating in the brewing process instead of natural gas, which cuts down emissions from the brewing process.
Fremont Brewing Company’s beer is canned, and their cans contain 80 percent recycled materials and weigh less to cut down on transportation costs.
Fremont Brewing Company joined the American Organic Hop Grower Association (AOHGA) and mobilized other breweries to engage with policy makers to make sure that FDA organic beer certification requires organic hops.
Fremont Brewing Company is also looking into sourcing a scalable CO2 re-capture system for their fermentation process.
A globally recognized brand, Guinness—and its parent company Diageo—recognizes the importance of environmental issues and their fundamental connection to the long-term growth of their business.
The home of Guinness, the St James Gate brewery in Dublin, is the first large-scale brewery in the world to attain LEED-platinum certification.
More than 99 percent of solid waste from the St. James’s Gate Brewery is composted, recycled or used for fuel.
Hopworks Urban Brewery (OR)
Founded in 2007 in Portland, Oregon, Hopworks Urban Brewery is committed to brewing world-class beer as sustainably as possible using organic malts and hops sourced primarily from the Northwest. The company’s 20-barrel brewery produces more than 12,500 barrels of beer a year for HUB’s two brewpubs and for distribution. Hopworks, a Certified B Corporation, incorporates a range of sustainable practices in its operation and makes every effort to protect our future with a thoughtful alternative.
HUB is 100% renewably powered and “cradle to gate” carbon neutral.
The brewery recently installed a Cleaning In Place system, which allows the brewery to conserve five times the amount of water when cleaning fermentation tanks while also saving energy and cleaner.
The brewery’s heat exchanger allows the brewery to capture the water used to cool down boiled wort and put it directly into the hot liquor tank.
HUB brewpubs offer handcrafted organic and Salmon-Safe beers and fresh, locally sourced food in sustainably-built and operated buildings.
Kona Brewing Company (HI)
Kona Brewing Company recognizes that the future of the Earth depends upon how businesses and individuals treat the Earth. An integral component of Kona Brewing Company’s philosophy is to grow the business with ecological integrity, reducing the company’s carbon footprint whenever possible. Kona Brewing Company is engaged in energy saving systems and choices, from sophisticated equipment, to simple behaviors such as turning off unnecessary lights.
At Kailua-Kona, a roof-mounted, grid-tied photovoltaic system produces an average of 645 kWh of electricity each day, allowing the brewery to offset nearly 50% of its electricity needs.
Kona Brewings Company’s pubs are Green Restaurant Association certified.
The annual Kona Brewer’s Festival is a zero waste event, and has raised more than $650,000 for environmental, educational and cultural organizations in Hawaii.
New Belgium Brewing (CO & NC)
Aside from producing world-class beers, New Belgium Brewing wants to prove business can be a force for good, and a key part of this goal, is demonstrated through their environmental stewardship. New Belgium is based in Fort Collins, Colorado and will soon open a brewery in Ashville, NC.
New Belgium follows globally accepted guidelines to perform GHG Accounting to assess the amount and sources of GHG emissions associated with the production of their product, with a goal to reduce their emission intensity to 14 kg of CO2e per hectoliter by 2015. In 2013, they had already achieved a two-kilogram intensity reduction down to 16 CO2e per hectoliter.
An on-site water treatment plant provides 15% of New Belgium’s brewery electricity needs through methane capture, and another 3 percent is provided through on-site solar panels.
Ninkasi Brewing Company (OR)
Distributed throughout seven Western states (and British Columbia, Canada), Ninkasi Brewing Company has seen enormous success since its founding in 2006. It has also fully integrated sustainability into its brewing practices, with an emphasis on environmental responsibility along the entire supply chain.
With its fourth facilities expansion currently underway, Ninkasi is on-track to have all of its three buildings LEED certified.
To reduce energy usage, Ninkasi installed a heat exchanger to recapture heat during a cooling step of the brewing process.
Ninkasi recently installed a 45kW on-site solar array, further reducing the carbon footprint of their beer.
By implementing an integrated supply chain that is localized to the Pacific Northwest—including locally-grown hops, 60% post-consumer waste glass from Portland, and a label printer three miles from the brewery headquarters—Ninkasi has minimized the carbon emissions that would otherwise result from long-distance sourcing of supply-side inputs.
North Coast Brewing Company (CA)
North Coast Brewing Co. (NCBC) is unwavering in its pursuit of excellence in brewing and integrity in business. NCBC is equally committed to the success of its employees, the satisfaction of its customers and shareholders, and the well-being of the community.
With every barrel of beer produced, North Coast Brewing Co. strives to do more for the planet, as stewards of the environment and patrons of the arts.
NCBC’s plan: make the world a better place, one pint at a time.
NCBC is a Certified B Corp.
NCBC uses renewable energy from its 83 kW on-site solar array.
NCBC has partnered with a local young farmer to implement a Carbon Farming project and find the best ways to sequester carbon from its brewing waste products. (See video below)
NCBC has created a closed-loop system: spent grain is converted into compost at its partner Fortunate Farm, where the compost enriches the soil, producing vegetables that are used in the brewery’s Tap Room Restaurant.
NCBC diverts a significant part of its waste stream for “beerigation” – irrigating the company’s landscaping and amending its partner farm’s soil and compost with waste beer and yeast slurry.
NCBC has installed a mash filter in its brewhouse significantly cutting water, energy and raw material inputs.
In response to last year’s drought emergency declaration, NCBC has initiated at 12-point water conservation strategy.
The brewery has developed a comprehensive set of sustainability goals that will serve as the framework for its annual sustainability report.
More than 92% of solid waste is composted, reused, recycled or otherwise diverted from the landfill.
NCBC captures CO2 during fermentation and uses it to purge tanks and blanket beer.
NCBC has committed to converting 100% of its pub food suppliers to Non-GMO and/or organic products.
Odell Brewing (CO)
Odell recognizes that efforts to reduce water and energy usage make financial sense. Located in Fort Collins, Colorado, Odell strives to be better not only in terms of their beer, but also in how they can give back to the community and environment around them.
100 percent of Odell’s energy is provided by renewable energy, 5 percent of which is provided from 11,000 square feet of on-site solar panels.
Odell Brewing utilizes insulated brew vessels to reduce heating and cooling costs, and they recapture steam for heating purposes in the brewing process.
For water conservation, Odell also utilizes a modified vacuum pump that reuses water three times and saves 1.25 million gallons of water annually. They have also created BreWater, which brings together breweries of all sizes to discuss water use in the industry and Northern Colorado
Odell is also looking into utilizing the CO2 from fermentation in their carbonation process.
Redhook Brewery (WA & NH)
Redhook became one of America’s first “craft” breweries. From a modest start in a former transmission shop in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard to the current breweries in Woodinville, WA and Portsmouth, NH, Redhook remains committed to sustainability. They are guided by their "complete circle philosophy" to reduce waste and recycle or reuse the resource whenever possible.
Redhook purchases Renewable Energy Credits to offset the electricity used at 100% of the facility, including to power their new electric vehicle charging station, which is the first public and free charging station on the Seacoast.
The brewery has several environmental and socially responsible initiatives planned, including a project to capture renewable energy from biogas generated onsite
Redhook Brewery was named a 2014 Safer Chemistry Champion by the Washington Department of Ecology for their dry-running conveyor project that replaced its steel bottling line with a plastic system, reducing water use by 54,792 gallons a year and also reducing the amount of soap needed for lubrication, cut use of antimicrobial disinfectants, and reduced chemicals needed to treat wastewater.
Rockford Brewering Company (MI)
As a small business Rockford Brewing Company focuses on sustainable growth, adopting new energy saving methods and taking inspiration from local Michigan agriculture to craft their beer.
Much of the furniture and interior design features of Rockford Brewing Company’s two-story pub were hand-built, on-site with locally harvested Michigan White Pine.
LED lighting throughout the pub reduce energy use.
Water and heat is conserved and reused through a heat exchanger into our Hot Liquor Tank, which is used for the next batch of beer.
Beer production has almost zero landfill waste.
All spent grain, fruit and whole hops go to a dairy farmer.
The Permaculture Series of beers focuses on local, fresh, and seasonal West Michigan agricultural ingredients, cutting down on transportation and energy inputs. The signature Paradigm MPA is brewed with 100% Michigan grown ingredients and offered year-round.
Sierra Nevada (CA & NC)
Sierra Nevada (CA & NC): Sierra Nevada Brewing Company aims to lead by example in their commitment to the environment. With the Sierra Nevada Mountains as inspiration, this Northern California based brewery is making bold actions in recognizing and reducing their environmental impact.
More than 50 percent of Sierra Nevada’s energy needs are generated on-site by more than 10,000 solar panels and four 250-kilowatt co-generation hydrogen fuel cells.
An on-site wastewater treatment plant treats effluent, and utilizes the methane generated from treatment for breweries’ boilers which reduces natural gas purchases and use.
Water use has been reduced annually despite increasing beer production due to water efficiency measures, including improving leaking pipes, pumps, and valves and equipment upgrades.
Rail transportation for malt delivery helps Sierra Nevada Brewery cut down carbon emissions from transportation.
Electric vehicle charging stations at the Chico headquarters use solar power and are free for visitors.
The restaurant has converted more than 8,000 gallons of used vegetable oil into biodiesel to power the Northern California distribution truck fleet.
99.8 percent of total solid waste is recycled or composted. Compost is used on their hop field, barley field and restaurant garden.
Smuttynose Brewing Company (NH)
Smuttynose Brewing Company recognizes the role climate change has in the future of their beer, their people, and their business.
Smuttynose Brewing Co. has a LEED Gold-certified brewery in Hampton, New Hampshire. Recently re-done and built with lumber harvested and salvaged on-site, this brewery has sustainable features such as biogas electricity generation through wastewater treatment, a waste heat capture, and LED on-demand lighting systems.
Snake River Brewery (WY)
From the scenic area around the town of Jackson, Wyoming, Snake River Brewery hopes to “brew beer to match the scenery”.
Snake River Brewery has received USDA Organic Certification for their Organic Beer (OB-1 for short)
Widmer Brothers Brewing (OR)
Widmer Brothers Brewing believes they have a responsibility to be a leader in both the quality of their beers and the sustainable ways in which they make them. Sustainability is a cornerstone of their business, and they are committed to minimizing their environmental impact at their brewery and brewpub.
Widmer Brothers rigorously tracks several Key Performance Indicators around reducing their carbon footprint.
100% of their brewpub's electricity is sourced from renewable wind power through their green power partner.
99.5% of their waste is diverted from landfills.
A small-scale Microbial Fuel Cell pilot directly generates electricity from Widmer Brothers’ brewery wastewater.