Thanks to a half-million dollar grant from the federal Rural Energy for America program, the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau, Alaska, has gone green. By installing a boiler that converts spent grain (the waste accumulated from the brewing process) into steam, the company is eliminating the use of fuel oil in its grain-drying process, and its overall fuel-oil use by more than half. “With moderate growth assumptions, Alaskan expects to save nearly 1.5 million gallons of oil over the next ten years,” the brewery announced in a press release.’
Traditionally, breweries sell their protein-rich spent grains to farmers and ranchers as feed. But Juneau is landlocked, and there are only 37 farms in southeast Alaska. So the brewery has been paying to ship its grain to the Pacific Northwest, and swallowing the cost of drying wt spent grain to prepare it for shipment.
The company is touting its “beer powered beer.” “While breweries around the world use spent grain as a co-fuel in energy recovery systems, ‘nobody was burning spent grain as a sole fuel source for an energy recovery system, for a steam boiler,’” Brandon Smith, the company's brewing operations and engineering manager, told Associated Press.
Alaskan’s products are available in 14 states. But if you ask any participant of a Sierra Club Alaska outing, they are particularly tasty when consumed just after a long hike, paddle, or mountain bike ride in the Last Frontier.
Image from Alaskan Brewing Company.
Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”