Beer production is littered with environmental issues. From the glass that is used to bottle to the grain that is used to produce the beer. The main environmental concerns from the ground to your table are energy and water consumption. The energy consumption is proportional to the carbon emissions and the water consumption is largely due to the barley farming and beer production. We can easily find where these environmental impacts can be reduced by splitting the process into three stages.
- Production and shipping of raw materials
- Brewing process
- Delivery and refrigeration of the finished product
Packaging, barley, and the malting of barley account for most of the environmental impact in the first stage. According to the Glass Packaging Institute, glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without quality loss. In countries where bottle recycling is mandated, the impact of the container is considerably decreased. The energy necessary to make aluminum cans is more than that for glass but its weight is less for transportation. An option that is friendly to the environment is reusable containers such as growlers and kegs.
It takes 3.4 barrels of water to produce one barrel of beer and 2.38 barrels of that water are used during the farming of barley. The malting, drying and roasting of the barley consumes the largest portion of energy in the process. The brewing of the beer itself accounts for less than 20% of the overall environmental impact and this percentage can be decreased significantly by being environmentally committed.
The environmental cost of beer during the transportation stage is increased when shipped by truck due to the weight of beer. Beer is best served cold and because of that 25% of the environmental footprint comes from refrigeration of the produced beer.
Reducing the water consumption looks to be the first area that could have significant positive effects on the brewing process. How would you suggest reducing water consumption? What area do you believe can be looked at to reduce the footprint? How would you compare the environmental footprint of craft brewing to large brewing? Should we all just get kegs?
Sources and More Information:
- Heineken Unveils Green Targets, http://www.brewersguardian.com/brewing-features/international/heineken_unveils_green_targets.html/
- Glass Packaging Institute, http://www.gpi.org/recycling/glass-recycling-facts
- Ecological Creed of Craft Beer, http://www.conservationmagazine.org/2014/03/sustainable-practices-in-craft-brewing/