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The Green Life: Green Beer for St. Patrick's Day

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March 14, 2008

Green Beer for St. Patrick's Day

Go ahead and enjoy a brewskie that's been dyed green for St. Patrick's Day, but then check out these beers that are even greener because the companies that make them are working to lighten their carbon footprint. If you know of any others, we'd all love to hear about them.

Then maybe we can enjoy a green-green beer!

New Belgium, maker of the ever-popular "Fat Tire" beer and many other Belgian-style beers, is based in in Ft. Collins, Colorado. In 1998 it became the first U.S. brewery to source its energy from wind power. Employees dipped into their bonus funds to help fund the switch -- very cool.

Using sun tubes and daylighting throughout the facility, they reuse heat in the brewhouse, and continue to search out new ways to close loops and conserve resources. Recycling at New Belgium takes on many forms, from turning "waste" products into something new and useful (like spent grain to cattle feed), to supporting the recycling market in creative ways (like turning keg caps into table surfaces). They've installed motion sensors on the lights throughout the building and evaporative cooling in their new packaging hall.

Meanwhile, over at Sierra Nevada in California, they've installed four 250-kilowatt co-generation fuel cell power units to supply electric power and heat to the brewery. This produces most of the brewery's electrical demand, and the co-generation boilers will harvest the waste heat and produce steam for boiling the beer and other heating needs. And get this: Their fuel cells use the waste methane generated at the wastewater treatment plant as a fuel source.

And hey, they're recycling fools! In 2006, Sierra Nevada kept 33,738 tons of materials --97.8 percent of their total waste, out of the landfill. They continue to earn a WRAP Award (Waste Reduction Awards Program) from the State of California as they have every year since 2001.

The natural fermentation process produces CO2, a greenhouse gas, but these guys installed a system to recover and recycle most of this gas for use around the brewery and during the bottle-filling.

You've heard the saying "It's the water" in regards to beer production. Well, Sierra Nevada continually audits the process to minimize wasteful practices, and have reduced their water usage to almost half of what's typically used by breweries.

They also encouraged and reward employees for reducing their emissions by riding their bikes to work, to run errands, or just for fun.

Cleveland, Ohio, is home to the Great Lakes Brewing Co., where you can climb on board their beer delivery truck and shuttle bus (called "The Fatty Wagon") that runs on straight restaurant vegetable oil! They've cut their trash removal fees in half by recycling the usual stuff, plus brewer's barley. They print newsletters, menus, beverage napkins and promotional items on 100 percent recycled paper. In addition, all packaging (i.e., 4-packs, 6-packs, 12-packs and the unbleached "eco-carton", which holds a case of beer) consists of recycled content.

In the brewery there's a cooling system that brings in cold air during winter months to cool the beer. Skylights and light sensors have been installed in the Tank Farm and cooler to allow in natural light and minimize the use of electricity. An "air curtain" is in place in the brewpub to keep warm air from escaping when patrons enter and exit.

Hats off to the Brooklyn Brewery which, in 2003, became the first company in New York City to switch to 100 percent wind-generated electricity. Community Energy, which manages the 20 wind turbines that produce electricity for the beer house, estimates that Brooklyn Brewery's green power stops 335,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 1,500 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 500 pounds of nitrogen oxide from being emitted into the atmosphere annually.

And, finally, a shout-out to Orlio, which makes 100% organic beer.

Got a beer-lovin' friend? Spread the word before St. Paddy's!

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