There are an increasing number of businesses embracing energy efficiency as a fundamental part of their operating philosophy for environmental rather
than economic reasons. In Canada there are two breweries in particular that
I feel exemplify a commitment to the environment: Crannog Ales, an organic
on-farm brewery in Sorrento, British Columbia, and Storm Brewing in St.
Johnís, Newfoundland where they are striving to achieve zero emissions using
the ZERI principles.
(Production ~800 hL/year, brands include Beyond the Pale Ale, Back Hand of
As Canadaís only certified organic "on farm" brewery, Crannog Ales in
Sorrento, British Columbia strive to incorporate environmentally friendly
sustainable business practices as much as possible. These goals affect
everything from their ingredient choices to their cleaning and waste
The farm provides food for their family and surpluses are sold at market.Having the brewery on the farm allows them to grow their own hops and other ingredients that may end up in the beer such as raspberries, and allows for environmentally friendly and energy efficient waste disposal. Chickens roaming the hop yards provide eco-friendly pest control, and a ready supply of fertilizer. Organic wastes such as spent grains, yeast, and beer dregs are all fed to the pigs or composted. Crannog notes that, "brewers yeast is well-known for its nutritional properties, and we know that the animals love it!"
Their consideration of the environment extends inside the brewery proper as well. Crannog uses a direct fire natural gas system to heat the brew kettle, and they are looking into a forced oxygen system, which would reduce fuel consumption by increasing the heat output by as much as 33% to 50%. Water conservation measures include reusing process water from one batch to the next, and wastewater output is eventually used for livestock or as irrigation water for their hop yard. Crannog avoids the use of high-pressure water hoses for cleaning, favoring manual scrubbing. This is a more labor-intensive process, but reduces the amount of water and chemicals required for cleaning.
Grey water can be more challenging to deal with than the organic waste materials as it can contain everything from traces of cleaners and sanitizers to floor sweepings and old beer. The cleaner used actually helps in the breakdown of solids so its presence in the grey water is not worrisome. The sanitizer used breaks down to water and acetic acid and only needs to be pH balanced before being added to the treatment system. The wastewater goes through a 400-gallon anaerobic treatment tank before it too becomes part of the compost. Future plans for the brewery include incorporating a reed-bed treatment system, as are improvements to the efficiency of their water re-use systems.
Packaging and distribution choices represent significant overall energy savings for Crannog. They only package their beer in kegs, which saves the energy consumed by bottle production, and as brewer Brian MacIsaac points out, "no labels = less waste". They recently introduced 8.5L party kegs, which I expect will be well received by customers looking to enjoy their beer at home. Crannog further reduces the energy used to distribute their product by making joint shipments with other local businesses such as cheese and meat producers to the larger markets thus reducing the energy wastage of shipping in partially loaded trucks. Sourcing their malt from a local malting company similarly reduces energy used in transportation.
(Production ~ 300 hL. Their brands include Coffee Porter, Killick Ale, and Kyle Ale)
Michael McBride participated in the 4th Annual World Congress on Zero Emissions in Windhoek, Namibia and is attempting to apply what he learned there to make Storm Brewing in St. Johnís, Newfoundland a Zero Emissions eco-brewery. The ZERI Foundationís goal is the efficient production of all the goods and services society needs without any form of waste. This goal is the basis of a Zero Emissions production and consumption model that imitates nature by allowing the output from one process to become the input for another.
The potential for applying these principles in a brewery is high because spent grains comprise a large percentage of brewing waste. Due to the high fiber and protein content, spent grains mixed with other fibers such as rice, straw or old newsprint can provide valuable substrate for growing mushrooms.
[For diagrams comparing the flow of materials in a regular brewery vs. a ZERI brewery see the case studies at www.zeri.org]
With assistance from a grant from Canadaís Industry Research Assistance Program, Storm began planting oyster mushrooms in sacks of spent grain, and soon had a crop of hundreds of them ready to harvest. Prior to this endeavor Storm, like many other breweries provided its spent grains to farmers as
livestock feed. McBride points out that growing mushrooms in the grains has an advantage over this disposal method, because cows cannot digest the type
of cellulose found in barley and as a result produce methane. Growing mushrooms on the spent grains first can make them more digestible to cattle. This both increases the quality of meat and provides additional revenue for the brewery with the exotic oyster mushrooms selling for as much as $8 a pound.
McBride hopes to go further still, by adding worms to the used compost to gain even more nutrients before selling it as an excellent fertilizer, known as vermicast. To truly produce zero emissions, the brewery must extract the nutrients from its wastewaters. "The best way to do that," says McBride, "would be to open a fish farm," which in turn becomes an additional source of revenue. The large amount of capital required to start such an operation makes this a challenging task.
In ZERIís model brewery each phase of production cascades into a new use of materials and manages to provide potential source of revenue. Spent grain bread is another potential revenue source from the use of spent grain. This model is especially attractive in less developed countries where the conservation of scarce water resources is important and the provision of jobs and the potential for using a digester to produce a biogas energy source is invaluable.
Critics might be quick to point out that while the efforts of these two brewers are laudable they cannot be practically applied to larger scale operations. This, in my opinion is a fallacy. To try and say that it is easier for a small on farm brewery to apply these principles than for a macro scale brewer to do the same is a disservice to the resources and ingenuity at the disposal of the big brewers. If anything it should prompt us to ask - Is anything preventing big brewers from maximizing their efficient use of materials and resources? I will leave you to ponder that
for now. In the next installment: a profile of Fish Brewing in Washington.