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Spotlight on Eco-friendly Breweries in North America

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Craft and micro-breweries have taken the lead in applying green practices to beer production. The most environmentally friendly breweries have emphasized the use of low-impact, renewable sources of energy. They often use less water to produce their beer in comparison to major brewing companies such as Guinness and Heineken. Environmentally conscious breweries limit or reuse the waste produced to brew beer. In addition, they use organic ingredients, reducing the amount of harmful pesticides and fertilizers introduced into the environment. Some of the more dedicated breweries are also developing (or have developed) green packaging or transportation solutions. 

One of the most consistently nature-friendly breweries in North America is New Belgium Brewery. This brewery is located in Fort Collins, Colorado, and it is famous for its flagship beer, Fat Tire Amber Ale. New Belgium uses organic ingredients for many of its beers. The company also aims to make the brewery entirely wind-powered; in 1999, it was one of the largest consumers of wind-power. Today, approximately 10% of its energy comes from the methane that is a byproduct of an on-site water treatment plant.

Speaking of water, New Belgium uses only 3.9 liters of water per liter of beer (by comparison, the industry average is 5-7 liters). The company also has an energy-efficient kettle for brewing, an evaporative cooler to condition its packaging hall with no compressors, UV-blocking windows and light shelves.

The Eel River Brewing Company in Fortuna, California, is another brewery with a green reputation. One of its notable achievements is becoming the first brewery in both California and the United States to be certified organic. Eel River also powers its facility with renewable biogas and the building is made with recycled and reclaimed fixtures.

Steam Whistle Brewing of Toronto, Ontario, has made notable strides forward with eco-friendly packaging and distribution. One of the few brewing companies to do so, Steam Whistle uses bottles fabricated from nearly 100% recycled materials. It also powers its trucks with B20 biofuel. Steam Whistle keeps its building climate-controlled with Enwave’s Deep Lake Water Cooling, which pumps ice cold water from Lake Ontario through the brewing facilities. Its energy comes from clean, renewable sources, such as wind and low-impact hydro generators. The company has also made steps to establish a “closed loop” system of recycling, meaning it tries to reuse as much of its waste products as possible.

Brooklyn Brewery was the first company in New York City to draw all of its energy from renewable sources. The company has also developed a program to reuse its spent grain; it arranges for the leftover husks to be picked up by local farmers, who can then use the grain to feed their livestock.

Odell Brewery, like New Belgium, hails from Fort Collins, Colorado. The company has installed a solar array that generates over a third of its energy. The facilities are also equipped with light fixtures that will automatically shut off when there is sufficient natural light. In addition, Odell Brewery uses six-pack holders made from recycled paper.

Many breweries have made substantial progress in the movement to become eco-friendly. Other notable companies that have adopted green practices include Full Sail from Oregon, Alaskan Brewing Company, Peak Organic Brewing Company (Portland, Maine), Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (Chico, California), and San Francisco’s Bison Brewery.

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