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Beer with us - sustainable brewing is here

Beer with us - sustainable brewing is here

Beer. Everyone already knows that if we drink enough, we’ll eventually solve all the world’s problems. Now Sierra Nevada is proving it.

The North California brewery—6th largest in the US—produces beer so sustainable you can feel the planet healing with every sip.

They’ve halved water use, slashed transport greenhouse emissions and now generate more than 60% of their electricity onsite, from clean and renewable sources. All while delivering one of the most competitively priced craft beers on the market.

Here’s how they do it.

It’s hard to imagine when swigging a lazy summer beer in your hammock, but that beverage in your hand is energy intensive. Every drop has spent its entire life under some sort of temperature control—from steeping and boiling, through 60°F fermentation and into a refrigerated supply chain.

Sierra Nevada takes the heat off the planet with a two-pronged approach to sustainable energy that starts with efficiency. When done boiling a brew, for example, they don’t just cool the kettle with any old water. They use H2O that’s destined for the next batch. Doing so pre-warms the water, so it requires less energy to boil the next brew.

State of the art refrigerator seals and locks ensure cooling is equally efficient while large windows naturally light the workshop. Sensors switch on supplementary artificial lighting only when needed.

Even with these efficiencies in place, however, brewing still chews through a lot of energy. That’s why Sierra Nevada started generating their own onsite, using natural gas-powered hydrogen fuel cells and solar.

At almost 11,000 panels, theirs is one of the largest privately owned solar installations in the US, and literally no panel is left unturned to max out the available power. Tracking technology follows the arc of the sun through the sky and rotates some of the panels to face it, producing up to 30% more energy than if they were static.

Sierra Nevada also installed 2 miles of rail lines to connect their operations with the national network. The link not only cuts back on greenhouse-intensive road transport (rail is 50% cleaner than truck travel) but it significantly lowers their annual logistics bill.

Finally, and perhaps most ingeniously, the brewery derives energy from waste streams by using microbes to break down unwanted organic by-products. The process produces clean-burning methane, which is used to fuel boilers.

A typical craft brewery uses between seven and eight pints of water to put one pint of beer on the bar. Sierra Nevada does it with less than five.

After filtering yeast residues and unwanted proteins out of the brew, they allow the sludge to settle out in ponds. By adding microbes to the remaining water, they’re able to break down finer organic fragments and send it back to the city in good shape for further cleaning.

Sierra Nevada has also refined dry bottle- and kettle-cleaning technologies to meet rigid hygiene demands with minimal H2O. And by using brewing water for heat exchange, they not only save energy but water as well.

Hop for the best
There are many reasons to like beer. Many indeed. Sierra Nevada’s just given us another, with a sustainable brew that makes you want to send a late night text saying: “I love you, planet.”

In the process, they’ve proven sustainable manufacturing is not just viable, but profitable. The brewery says its practices are set to yield considerable operational savings over the coming years, rewarding them for an innovative approach to environment and business.

Produced by: Murad Sabzali