March is drawing to a close, and while we may have put away our green dye for another St. Patrick’s Day, that doesn’t mean we’re done with green beer!
Sustainability is a top concern for every industry today, and beer is no different. So the conversation around beer and the environment is particularly pressing because sustainable brewing is hard to achieve. Between water and energy use, transportation needs, and the brewing byproducts produced, there are a lot of concerns to address when it comes to making beer green! That may seem daunting, but there’s good news, too—craft breweries have embraced the need for a greener industry, leading the charge for sustainable brewing practices and supporting environmental organizations.
In this article, you’ll learn more about the challenges of sustainable beer brewing and the creative solutions employed by craft breweries around the world. We’ll also introduce you to the sustainability efforts undertaken by some of our brewery partners and our own work to make Canada Craft Club more eco-friendly.
How Do You Make Beer Sustainable?
Every little bit of work towards a more sustainable beer helps. Breweries have even taken up the challenge in lots of different ways. Here are just a few of the ways that brewers have found to green their beer-making practice!
You probably won’t be surprised to hear it, but brewing beer needs a lot of water! It’s required at every step of the brewing process. From watering the wheat and grains all the way through the actual fermentation and brewing process. This is why many breweries have been finding ways to recapture and reuse wastewater from brewing. This can include taking wastewater from different steps of the process to water crops or even cleaning down machinery. In one intriguing case, a University of Calgary research team even partnered up with a local brewery to create a limited-edition beer made with purified municipal wastewater!
Alternative Energy Sources
One obvious area where breweries can always improve is in their energy efficiency and usage. Even at the smaller scale, as you see at craft breweries, brewing still needs power! Luckily, breweries looking to become more energy efficient don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of eco-friendly and renewable power alternatives available to invest in. From solar panels to biomass generators that use brewing byproducts, brewers are finding ways to green their energy usage.
Creative Uses for Spent Grain
Grains are crucial to the beer you drink, imparting colour and flavour. They produce the liquid sugars (wort) used in the fermentation process. But once the wort is extracted, what do you do with the massive amounts of spent grain left as a byproduct of the process?
Well, as mentioned above, one option is to use the grains in biomass generators to help fuel future brewing processes! But for smaller craft breweries, massive equipment overhauls aren’t usually financially feasible. Instead, breweries will partner with local farmers to use the leftover grains as animal feed. This helps in keeping tonnes of spent grain out of landfills! It’s not just livestock that beer grains can feed either! While the sugars and starches in beer grains are used up in brewing, the fibres and proteins are still intact. Initiatives all around the world are working on ways to reintroduce this spent grain into our food chain for nutritious, sustainable meals!
Donation and Charity Partnerships
When it comes to sustainable brewing practices, every brewery’s journey is different. So depending on a brewery’s location and resources, the ability to source more environmentally friendly ingredients or retrofit brewing equipment can be minimal. This means breweries will improve their processes incrementally rather than all at once.
One thing that every brewery can do is raise climate change awareness, support local green initiatives, and form charity partnerships. And this goes for established sustainable breweries as well! Whether a brewery has gone completely carbon neutral or is just beginning its journey towards greener brewing, partnering with and donating to organizations working to combat climate change and promote sustainability is a powerful way for any environmentally-minded brewery to put their money where their mouth is.
Craft Brewery Partners Embracing Sustainability
At Canada Craft Club, we’ve been fortunate to work with many inspiring craft brewery partners that have embraced climate action and sustainability as part of their brewing practice. Read on to learn more about how some of our partners have been making a difference in their local communities and, of course, the world!
Bearded Iris is a brewery based in Nashville recently featured in our February package. Their hoppy brews, fruited sours, and stouts are known for their clever names. However, a closer inspection will reveal a 1% For the Planet sticker on every can. As part of their commitment to long-term sustainability in their brewing practice, Bearded Iris has partnered with 1% For the Planet. They pledge to donate at least 1% of their annual sales to vetted environmental nonprofits.
Through this initiative, organisations supported by Bearded Iris include the Southern Alliance For Clean Energy, The Bee Cause Project, and the Tennessee Clean Water Network, among others!
As the first cooperatively-owned brewery in Minnesota and only the third in the United States, Fair State has been making a difference in more ways than one. After establishing its community engagement arm, Fair State Cooperates, in 2016, the brewery partnered with dozens of crucial nonprofit organizations.
Every month, the co-op partners with a different nonprofit whose work focuses on the crucial areas of democracy, justice, or combating climate change. In addition to spreading awareness and having members get involved through volunteering, Fair State donates 10% of crawler proceeds to their nonprofit partner for the month. For example, the March Cooperates partner for 2022 is the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.
Based in our own Alberta, Origin Brewery is owned and operated by the Hilton family. Origin beer is a local product, made with barley grown and malted right on the Hilton family farm. So this means less shipping of grain across the country, fewer emissions, and malted grains that are fully traceable from grass to glass.
As pioneers of soil conservation, the Hiltons have been practising conservation tillage for five generations. Through no-till farming, the farm captures and stores tons of C02 each year. Rather than being released back into the atmosphere (which happens when soil is tilled), the carbon builds up organic matter in the ground, while the crops release oxygen into the atmosphere. In 2020 alone, Origin was able to take 3,500 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. They achieved a negative carbon footprint through their sustainable farming practice.
In addition to this, Origin is always looking for ways to introduce sustainability into every part of its brewing process. This includes donating spent grain to local farmers to serve as feed whenever possible.
Members—look for Origin’s Wheatland White Ale in your March package!
Canada Craft Club Cares
At Canada Craft Club, we’re always looking to make a good impact on the world. So, our packaging and compostable inserts are made from 100% recyclable material. Are you a beer lover who’s excited by the idea of sampling exclusive craft beers from around the world? Consider signing up for a Canada Craft Club subscription or getting one as a gift! You’ll receive a pack of exciting and delicious beers delivered to your door every month. Cheers for greener beers!