You guys, it’s Friday. It’s also Super Bowl weekend. Needless to say, I think there might be some cold ones drank this weekend.
And while there are a lot of issues surrounding beer and its environmental impact — growing barley uses a lot of energy and water; it can introduce harmful fertilizers and pesticides into the environment; its production uses a lot of energy and a ton of water; packaging can be problematic, as well as transportation and refrigeration — there are better options out there.
So some things to keep in mind when you are making your beer selections this weekend:
- Look for options that are organic — Organic options can reduce a little bit of the environmental footprint by introducing less chemicals into the environment.
- Consider your packaging — Glass manufacturing can have a huge environmental impact. Companies that use recycled glass can reduce that a bit, as can using reusable containers like stainless steel kegs (keg party!!) and growlers. Cans use more energy to make, but are lighter to transport.
- Think about buying local — If you’ve ever carried a keg, or a couple 12-packs, you know that beer is heavy. That translates into a bigger environmental impact when trucks are shipping to all of those far away places. If you can cut out that shipping just a tiny bit, more power to you.
So, where does that leave us? Well, lucky for you, the non-beer expert that I am, I have compiled a list of some breweries that are doing things better.
My absolute favorite brewery, New Belgium (yes, I’m a Colorado girl so I’m biased, what can I say) is one of the breweries leading the way when it comes to social responsibility. The country’s third-largest craft brewer, New Belgium is also 100% employee owned, a Certified B-Corp and they make effin’ good beer. The company is working to create best practices to increase resource efficiencies in brewing that they can share with others. To date they are one of the breweries on the lower end of water usage in the production process, their electricity is produced on site using solar and bio-gas, they donate $1 to charity for every barrel of beer produced and all but 0.21% of their waste escapes landfills.
They produce nine delicious, year-round beers: Fat Tire Amber Ale, Ranger IPA, Rampant Imperial IPA, Sunshine Wheat, Blue Paddle Pilsener, 1554 Black Ale, Abbey Belgian Style Ale, Trippel and Shift Pale Lager. They also have a group of phenomenal sour beers (La Folie is my pick) and have recently introduced their Glutiny beers, which are gluten free.
North Coast Brewing Co.
A few hours north of here, on the rugged coast of Mendocino, California is North Coast Brewing Co. Another Certified B Corp, North Coast uses renewable energy from on-site solar and is well on its way to creating a closed-loop system. They currently convert their spent grain to compost the vegetables that are used at the brewery’s Tap Room Restaurant, they re-use a portion of their waste water for “beerigation,” and capture the CO2 produced during fermentation and use it to purge tanks and blanket beer. And their commitment to local charities is nothing to sneeze at as they give back to a slew of local causes (I stopped counting at 36).
Today they produce 15 distinct award winning beers, including Red Seal Ale, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Scrimshaw Pilsner and Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale (one of my faves). They also have a couple of limited release barrel-aged treats — including a special batch of Old Rasputin.
Bison Brewing Company
Bison Brewing Company was the first certified B Corp brewery and one of the first fully organic breweries in the world. They’re kind of a big deal. The Berkeley based brewery has incorporated sustainable practices into every piece of their business — from their production methods, to ecologically responsible packaging choices to 100% non-GMO ingredients.
They currently sell their organic beer in 12 states to independent stores. Their beers – which include iconic beers like Chocolate Stout and Honey Basil Ale (yes, please), as well as one off kegs like Barry White’s Voice in a Barrel (yes, you read that right) and Whiskey Thief inspired by, you guessed it, Whiskey – are all balanced and drinkable but with unique ingredients.
Last but certainly not least is Lakefront Brewery. With beginnings in sibling rivalry this once small lake-front microbrewery has since become a Milwaukee icon. Lakefront Brewery has always been an innovator within the industry — being one of the first to make pumpkin beer and quite possibly the first to bottle a fruit beer. But probably their biggest innovative achievement (in this beer drinker’s opinion) — with production of Organic ESP (Extra Special Bitter), Lakefront became the first certified organic brewery. The brewery tries to use local ingredients first and even helped form the Midwest Hops and Barley Co-op, which helped reintroduce hops and barley to the Midwest region (they had kind of died out after prohibition). The result was Local Acre, the first beer since prohibition to be made with 100% Wisconsin-rown hops and malt.
Lakefront’s year-round brews include Fixed Gear American Red IPA, Hop Jockey Double IPA and Growing Power Organic Farmhouse Pale Ale among others. They were also one of the first to do Gluten Free with their New Grist Pilsner and Ginger Style Ales.
Okay, okay, it must be 5 o’clock by now, let’s get to the good stuff. In the words of our friends at North Coast Brewing – here’s to making the world a better place, one pint at a time. Cheersies!
Do you have a favorite sustainable beer brand? Would love to hear it!