A model for green brewing



Considering we live in inarguably one of the top craft beer-producing spots in the world, it's pretty easy to maintain a locavore mentality when at the liquor store.

I rarely buy beers from out of state for this reason, and even more rarely take time to spotlight outsiders in my Side Dish column or on this blog.

But I got a press release today from Alaskan Brewing regarding all the steps they've taken to be as green as possible — some of them pretty significant. So as we approach Earth Day and the Indy Eco Issue (due out April 22), I've decided to show them some love while letting you know about some positive aspects that help counter the fact that the beer still has to travel a long way to get here.

Firstly, Alaskan donates 1 percent of all proceeds from its Alaskan IPA to protect the Pacific Ocean via a fund called Coastal CODE.

Second, the brewery has employed a CO2 recovery system since its launch in 1998:

The system captures and cleans carbon dioxide, a natural byproduct of the brewing process, and uses it to package the beer and purge oxygen from holding tanks, saving money and the environment. This system prevents approximately 783,000 pounds of CO2, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, from being released into the atmosphere each year. That is equivalent to preventing the emissions from using more than 40,000 gallons of gasoline annually.

Next, it utilizes a grain dryer:


Most breweries distribute the grain leftover from the brewing process, or "spent grain," to nearby farms. Due to our remote location, we have to ship our spent grain to Seattle for distribution to farmers and ranchers in the Pacific Northwest. The grain must first be stabilized, or dried, to prevent it from decomposing during the long trip south. We do this in our self-sustaining grain dryer, which is heated by a biomass burner that uses about 50 percent of our spent grain as a fuel source. We are the only craft brewery in the country to operate this spent grain drying system.

Lastly, and perhaps most important, Alaskan uses a mash filter press:

In 2008, Alaskan Brewing found a way to balance innovation, quality, and efficiency with the installation of a mash filter press. We are the first craft brewery in the United States to employ this Belgian-based brewing technology, which allows us to reduce the amount of water, malt and hops needed to make our beer, while maintaining high quality and consistency. In one year, the mash filter press will use 1 million fewer gallons of water and 6 percent less malt to make the same amount of beer as our traditional brewing process. The unique design of the mash filter press reduces the moisture content in the spent grains, which further reduces the energy required to dry the grain before it is transported to farms in the Pacific Northwest. This results in a savings of 65,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year-enough for a truck to travel around the world 50 times!

In conclusion, I'd like to reiterate: Buy local first, but buying Alaskan vs. some international macrobrew is still a good idea if you're looking to be a green drinker.

If we all really want to make a difference, perhaps we should pressure our favorite breweries to look into CO2 recovery systems and mash filter presses.

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