Great Lakes Craft Brewers & Water Conservation Conference

August 16, 2009

Recently, during Ohio Brew Week, I shared a book signing event with beer and food writer Lucy Saunders. She let me know about an event she is organizing to help brewers learn better water conservation practices.

There will be presentations from brewers and water experts, including Wisconsin Secretary of Commerce Dick Leinenkugel will present a keynote and discuss his efforts with the M-7 Water Council to make Milwaukee the freshwaster hub of the world.

Wisconsin Craft Brewers and Water Conservation Conference
Oct. 26-27, 2009
Where: Pilot House, Pier Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
Cost: $195 until Sept. 19, then $250 until Oct. 20, then $375 for onsite registration.
More Info:

Water Stewardship Certification for Beer

March 31, 2009

A couple weeks ago the World Water Forum was held in Istanbul, Turkey. According to an AFP article, a new scheme was announed at the Forum designed to identify products produced with water from a sustainable source.

Michael Spencer, director of the Australia’s Water Stewardship Initiative, spoke at the Forum explaining: “That there is a crisis in water is a given, and that we need to address it is a given. That’s why there’s so much momentum behind developing a global standard.”

The standard, when launched, could follow the mold of the highly succesful Forest Stewardship Council program which includes more than 12,000 companies participating in identifying products produced through sustainable forestry practices.

Spencer said the label could be in use within 18 months on products as varied as beer and breakfast cereal.

Think Outside the Bottle

September 6, 2008
Pledge to Break the Bottled Water Habit

In the past decade, bottled water has become a convenience most Americans have come to take for granted. Homebrewers often use it in place of water from the tap. Likewise, coffee connoisseurs are reaching for the bottled stuff in attempts to brew great coffee at home.

Fact is, water is the biggest ingredient in both beer and coffee, so it makes sense to pay attention to its quality. But did you know that roughly half of bottled water is just tap water put in a bottle? And furthermore, that the health and safety regulations governing tap water are far more effective than those in place for bottled water – bottled water often is untested whereas there are free annual water quality reports available for all municipal tap water systems?

What’s more is that bottled water is an astounding 750-2,700 times more expensive than tap water.

Take a look at the new, free Responsible Purchasing Guide to Bottled Water Alternatives. Then take the Center for a New American Dream’s Pledge to Break the Bottled Water Habit.

UK’s First Carbon-Neutral Beer?

June 6, 2008

Adnams Managing Director Andy Wood with bottle of East GreenAdnams claims to have produced the U.K.’s first carbon-neutral beer. The beer is a light ale called East Green, named after the village common in front of the brewery.

The summer issue of American Brewer contains a story I wrote about New Belgium’s recent carbon-lifecycle assessment of their flagship Fat Tire amber ale. The same conclusions reached in that report are reflected in the efforts taken by Adnams to curb their carbon emissions.

Adnams Eco Distro CenterThe first area of interest to brewers is addressing their own operations. Adnams took a major step in this direction with the new “eco-built” distribution center they opened in late 2006. The facility sports what was at the time the UK’s largest “living roof.”

Quoted in The Publican, the company’s managing director Andy Wood claimed, “If this beer sold in comparative volumes to Broadside (the company’s leading brand, ed.) it would be the equivalent of taking sixty-five cars off the road a year.”

But even with a “green” distribution center and a highly efficient brewery, there are carbon emissions generated throughout the lifecycle of the product. Chief among the upstream impacts are barley malt and glass bottles. Adnams sourced exclusively locally-grown and malted barley for this beer, which limited emissions to a degree. They also utilized aphid-resistant Boadicea hops which limit the need for petroleum-based pesticides, striking another blow against the infernal carbon fiend. And they developed a lighter-weight beer bottle (click here to download a pdf about their lightweight bottle).

Through these and other measures, Adnams was able to reduce the carbon footprint of East Green from a maximum of 159 grams of carbon equivalent (gCe) per bottle to 118 gCe. The remaining emissions were offset with assistance from Climate Care and the Carbon Trust. Here’s a look at breakdowns of the emissions before and after the carbon reduction strategies were implemented.

East green emissions before reductions.Figure 1. Emissions from Adnams’ East Green ale before reductions strategies were implemented.

East Green emissions after reductions.Figure 2. Emissions from East Green after reductions strategies were implemented.

Read more about Adnams East Green on their website here.

Hell, Heaven, and Organic Beer

April 8, 2008

Some days everything in the world feels just right. Today started out the other way – like we’re doomed to make the same mistakes over and over. The news in the Washington Post was even more depressing than usual: mass rapes in the Congo, budget crises in the state governments, Mugabe continuing to jockey for power in Zimbabwe, China violating human rights, and General Petraeus telling us that the war in Iraq is going just fine.

Clearly, the world is going to hell.

But then the day took a turn for the better. I’m a pacifist – I haven’t heard of a war yet that I think makes a shred of sense. But I have a strange connection to some of today’s news, particularly that involving the U.S. military. You see, the Pentagon is one of the world’s largest offices, housing about 23,000 employees. The building is so big that it undergoes continuous renovations because by the time they finish up one section, there is another section ready for rehab. The contractors who manage these renovations invited my group, the Responsible Purchasing Network, to help them develop a green purchasing policy. Today I found out, unofficially, that we were awarded the contract. Cool.

But then something even more impressive happened. I got free beer in the mail. I love it when that happens. Have I said that before? Sorry, I can’t help it. There is just nothing like the feeling I get when free beer appears unexpectedly in the mail . . . addressed to me . . . and did I mention it was free? And sometimes . . . it’s even organic! My god, I’ve died and gone to heaven.

Green Lakes Organic AleToday I received three bottles of the new Green Lakes Organic Ale from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. Two bloggers wrote about this beer during last month’s Beer Blogging Session, which I hosted here at BeerActivist.

The beer is brewed with five types of certified organic malts. But what I found more intriguing is that it is brewed with ‘certified salmon safe‘ hops. I had never heard of this before. Apparently, Safe Salmon is a non-profit group working to protect salmon habitat in the Willamette Valley of Oregon (where much of America’s hops are grown) by certifying farm practices that prevent run-off and other habitat damage.

The beer itself is a delicious bitter ale. Scorers over at Beer Advocate currently have it clocked in with a B+, while the Rate Beer reviewers have ranked it in the 78th percentile of the Amber Ale style.

In the glass, this beer exhibits a deep, contemplative amber with a steady but moderate flow of carbonation bubbling to topside to produce a reasonable, lasting head with lace that has equally thoughtful stick-to-it-tiveness. An initial blast of bitterness bites the tongue but is quickly followed by a cake-like malt sweetness. Hop citrus notes are apparent throughout but do not dominate. This is a beer I could relish drinking with a group of environmental activist colleagues as we plot strategy for saving the world, one organic barley crop and one salmon safe hop farm at a time.

West Virginia Organic Hop Farm

February 17, 2008

Bryan George at Brykar Ridge farm in Spencer, West Virginia emailed me inquiring if I knew folks who might be interested in contracting for organic hops. I bet he’ll find some takers so I’m posting his solicitation here on the blog. Basically, just contact him to start a conversation about varieties and volumes.

He is currently growing organic produce of various kinds in addition to his vineyard that produces half a dozen varieties of grapes for a boutique winery.

His website is right here. Check it out and get in touch. Let’s get some organic hops growing here in the Mid-Atlantic!

Brykar Ridge

New ‘Green’ Brewery in Beaufort, South Carolina

February 10, 2008

Brewer’s BrewingSeems like everyone’s catching the green train these days! I can hardly keep up with all the ‘green’ beer news anymore. That’s a good thing, although it does raise the question of just what ‘green’ really means and who, if anyone, is defining it.

Brewer’s Brewing, a new brewpub in Beaufort, South Carolina has a link on their homepage labeled “Brewer’s Is Green.” Quoting directly from the web page, here’s a run down of the green efforts enumerated therein. Let’s see what they are calling green.

Concrete is 100% green and we will be using it for our main bar and the bathrooms, we threw in oyster shells and recycled glass in the mix.

The phrasing here is confusing. I’m not sure if they are claiming that concrete, in general, is 100% green or if the concrete they are using is green. Presumably it’s the latter since conventional concrete is by no means inherently green. Regardless, the term “100% green” is troublesome since it is a such a vague claim. It’s cool that they integrated “recycled” glass in it but I think they mean “reused” glass, because recycling glass would be silly if all they were doing was using it as a filler in concrete. The oyster shells are an appropriate touch since presumably they originate from the nearby coast.

Dakota Burl is a unique bio-based material, which exhibits the beauty and elegance of traditional burled woods. The material is created from agricutural fiber and sunflower hulls, making this a beautiful environmental hardwood. This product is being used for all our dining tables.

Sounds cool. Ag waste products in general are a good for “waste-cycling,” i.e. turning waste byproducts into new marketable products especially when they are replacing what might have otherwise been petroleum-based products such as plastic tables. Furthermore, the Dakota Burl website claims the product has zero VOC emissions.

All of our bulbs through out the restaurant will use (cfl’s) compact flourescents lights and will al be run through a Lutron dimming system.

That’s great. What’s even better is that a claim like this will be irrelevant in a few years. Last December, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 setting new efficiency standards for electric lights, effectively mandating the phaseout of incandescent light bulbs in the US beginning in 2012.

Green SureAny surface that has paint on it will be coated with Sherman Williams Harmony Sure Green paint which has no odor and no (voc) volatile organic compounds.

Cool. Low and no VOC paints should really be standard for virgin paint. This benefits paint workers, employees, and customers by improving the indoor air quality of the brewpub, so folks can stick their nose in the glass and just smell beer instead of nasty indoor air pollution. I’d rather get a headache from having one too many than from huffing VOCs any day.

One no flush urinal from Kohler will be used in the mens bathroom. This unit alone will save 40,000 gallons a year.

It may sound funny but these new waterless urinals are going to be all the rage very soon. Mark my words. There is huge interest in the institutional purchasing sector for these things. I had my first waterless urinal sighting just a couple months ago in Millheim, PA at the new Elk Creek Cafe and Aleworks.

The worlds most efficient water heater will be installed for the whole brewpub. This unit is made from A.O Smith and is has a rating of 94% efficiency.

I’m guessing it must be this one. But it looks like there is even a 99% efficient water heater available out there. Not sure if they have different kinds of sizes or performance issues.

All three Toilets will have a High Efficiency Toilet valve from Sloan Valve. Push the handle up for liquid waste and it will flush with 1.1 gallons and push down for solid waste for a flush that uses 1.6 gallons. The handle is also coated with an antimicrobial agent that protects against the transfer of germs.

I’ve seen these in other countries but they haven’t really caught on yet in the U.S. I think people are confused about how to use them. Hopefully there will be a little sign near the toilet showing people how to use the toggle on the handle.

Bath room partitions are made from 100% recycled plastic from psisc out of Columbia SC.

Neat, they are even supporting a South Carolina-based business with this option. PSISC stands for Partition Systems Incorporated of South Carolina. I’ll just try to ignore the image on the company homepage depicting two young girls in a bathroom dressed like cheerleaders. Um, that’s really just kind of creepy.

All in all, these efforts seem quite worthy and I’m guessing they’ve made other environmentally preferable choices that haven’t made it onto their ‘green’ web page yet. For example, their flagship beer, Paddler’s Pale Ale, is organic. I wish these guys were open last summer when my family visited the beach in South Carolina. Guess I have something to look forward to if we go back this year!


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