Cheers to a Greener Beer

article image
Gwenda Kaczor /

Beer and wine are infamous for their ability to dehydrate the overconsumer, but what will really make your head hurt is how much water it takes to get your party on. According to Sustainable Industries (Feb. 2010), brewing a gallon of beer typically requires 6 to 8 gallons of water; an equal amount of vino, up to 17 gallons.

Thankfully, there’s relief on the way. Terrain (Spring 2010), a Berkeley-based environmental magazine, profiles a handful of forward-drinking California wineries and breweries that are harnessing waste and by-products to power their production. The savvy growers at Napa Wine Company, for example, have teamed up with environmental engineers to develop an experimental process that converts effluent into hydrogen energy, with a little help from microscopic bacteria that “eat the sugary leftovers of grapes and exhale clean water,” Terrain explains. The company also uses treated wastewater to irrigate the vineyards.

Sierra Nevada employs similar methods at its operation in Chico. Bacteria feast on the brewery’s wastewater, creating methane as they eat. “Instead of being released into the air, the gas is pumped back to the plant to power boilers,” Terrain writes. And the Sebastopol start-up Green Energy Network turns castoff reds and whites from a nearby winery into ethanol, which goes into members’ gas tanks.

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.