The Fusion of Hops and Heads


Craft Beer Buzz Words: Episode II - Sustainable

Craft Beer Buzz Words: Episode II - Sustainable

Previously, we posted an article called the Craft Beer Buzz Words: Episode I - Organic, and much like each episode in the the Star Wars Franchise (obviously we’re talking about Episodes IV-VI), it created anticipation and excitement for the next installment. Or it didn’t, whatever, but come on, you know you want to read it! This time, we learn about: Sustainability.

Sustainability. An interesting word, isn’t it? Just looking at it, we can tell it’s about the “sustaining”. But sustaining what? And how? And what in the name of Luke’s Tauntaun does it have to do with craft beer?

recyclebeerWhat is sustainability?

According to Sustainable Table, “sustainable agriculture is a way of raising food that is healthy for consumers and animals, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, respects animals, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports and enhances rural communities.”

It is like organic, but it goes deeper. Where organic refers to the consumable item, sustainable is about the business practices as much as the resulting beer. Organic farming is sustainable. Clear as mud? Simply put, it is a way of creating food without hurting everyone and everything involved, a way of managing food sources much like our ancestors did.

Big Al Brewing became Washington State’s first brewery to use solar thermal energy to heat the water for brewing.Big Al Brewing became Washington State’s first brewery to use solar thermal energy to heat the water for brewing.Who would do that?

What’s the difference between sustainable craft beer and industrialized beer? The sarcastic might say: “the price”, but that’s not true. You might be surprised by some of the breweries in the sustainable market, the guys (and gals) that are out there working on brewing great beer while trying to keep the planet healthy. The biggest name is obviously New Belgium, who says sustainability “means making business decisions based on minimizing environmental impact, encouraging the growth of our employee owners, and being a socially responsible contributor to our community.” They have had a mission to produce an environmentally-friendly product since before they bottled their first craft beer.

Many other craft breweries are also trying to become more conscious, as they use new and better methods of recycling: using graywater to clean, collecting rainwater and using solar power to heat kettles. Big Al Brewing became Washington State’s first brewery to use solar thermal energy to heat the water for brewing. They did this because of the tax credits that are given to business to switch. It was the only way they could have had it done.

Long Island’s Blue Point Brewing Company also boasts a sustainable craft beer culture with high-efficiency boilers, CFL bulbs, fuel-efficient delivery trucks, motion detector lights, low-flow toilets, completely compostable drinking cups, and composting of mash. Not bad for the East Coast’s largest craft brewery.

Brewery Vivant was named the first LEED-Certified craft brewery.The Green Building Certification Institute administers LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications to companies around the United States that utilize sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy, materials, indoor quality, innovation, and regional priority. Back in February of 2012, Grand Rapids’ Brewery Vivant was named the first LEED-Certified craft brewery. What did they say about their sustainability? “Being a truly sustainable company means that we consider the impact of our decisions on the natural environment, the people that may be affected, and the financial health of our business. We want to balance all of these areas to operate our business with a long term approach.” This is huge, since there are only 10,000 LEED-Certified buildings out there.

Is it something that’s here to stay?

We don’t have a crystal ball, but think about this: industrial farming (including that of hops) tends to use large amounts of pesticides and other chemicals. Sustainable farming uses the organic standards, providing healthier foods, with less possibility of contamination. It is also better for the people involved. As it becomes more and more the norm in the industry, and the government continues to push for sustainability (complete with tax credits), there will be increasing numbers of breweries that turn to “sustainability.”

The Judgment

Look, we want you to drink craft beer because of the culture and the community that comes from it. What else has an amazing community? The crowd that is onboard he sustainable train. These brewers (and farmers, builders, designers, etc) work their asses off to build great brew, and as the ingredients get better so will the beer.

Sounds like a great idea to us.

September 12, 2012
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