Green Beer

First there was the microbrewery. Now there’s the eco-brewery, where you can quench your thirst for great beer-and a cleaner environment.

As Jim Motavalli reports in E Magazine (Jan./Feb. 2002), the past decade has seen dramatic growth in environmentally conscious brewing. The trend has been most evident in the rising number of organic beers on the market, but can also be seen in the number of breweries that are shifting to a more eco-friendly manufacturing process.

Organic beer (brewed with organic hops, malts, barleys, and natural yeast) is enjoying a remarkable rise in popularity, with such brands as Wolaver’s Pale Ale and Fish Tale Organic Amber garnering high praise from beer critics and solid sales in regional markets. “The future of organic beer is bright,” says Crayne Horton of Fish Brewing Company, which brews the Fish Tale brand in Olympia, Washington. “We’re converting more and more people over to it.”

But you don’t have to sell organic beer to be environmentally conscious, Motavalli notes. New Belgium Brewing Company, an employee-owned brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado, recently was voted “best midsized brewery in the U.S.” for its Trippel Belgian Style Ale and a wood-aged beer called LaFolie. But New Belgium’s plant also merits attention. The nation’s first wind-powered brewery, New Belgium’s new technology reduces the amount of carbon dioxide generated by the plant by some 1,800 metric tons a year. In January, the Uinta Brewing Company of Salt Lake City announced that its new brewery and brewpub will also be wind-powered.

Brewpubs are also getting into the act. The Leopold Brothers brewpub in Ann Arbor, Michigan, aims for “zero waste” in its brewing process by reusing its wastewater and heat in an attached greenhouse.

Of course, the positives of organic ingredients and eco-friendly brewing can be effectively neutralized by thirsting for a national market, which requires that you ship your brew by diesel-guzzling trucks to the nether regions of the country. So the Nevada City, California-based Wolaver’s has cultivated partnerships with three regional breweries to brew their beer and distribute it locally. As CEO Sean Turner told Jim Slama in the Chicago-based sustainable living monthly Conscious Choice (March 2002), “This system gives us the ability to develop a national brand while maintaining a strong connection to our local markets.”

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