To many drinkers, green beer means adding a few drops of food coloring to a St. Patrick's Day pint. But for a growing number of brewers--micro- and major--ecofriendly brewing is a year-round obsession.
In Chico, California, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is installing solar panels that, along with hydrogen fuel cells already in use, will generate 75 percent of the company's electricity--and heat for the brewing process.
The New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado, captures methane gas released while treating wastewater and uses it to produce 10 percent of the brewery's power--trimming $18,000 off its 2006 energy bills. Along with running its local delivery trucks on biodiesel and awarding bicycles to its workers on their first anniversary, New Belgium was the first U.S. brewer to buy wind power for all its needs.
In pursuit of producing zero waste, the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland shares its spent grains with an artisan baker (who makes cracked-barley beer bread and pretzels from them) and a local farmer who uses them as a substrate for growing organic mushrooms. Leftover veggie oil from the brewpub fuels the Fatty Wagon, a shuttle bus that carts patrons to baseball games. And in winter, the owners shut down the refrigerator and blow in cold air to keep the beer chilled. All that effort hasn't hurt the bottom line, either: Business was up 30 percent last year. --Andrew Becker