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InBev to Cut Resource Use

Posted by Maggie on June 5, 2013

This article is from the Environmental Leader.

AB InBev to Cut Water Use, GHGs, Packaging

nheuser-Busch InBev today committed to seven global environmental goals to reduce water use and water risk, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions, packaging and energy use.

AB InBev aims to reach these goals, which are shared across 24 countries, by the end of 2017. The company’s new goals are:

  • Reduce water risks and improve water management in 100 percent of its key barley growing regions in partnership with local stakeholders.
  • Engage in watershed protection measures at 100 percent of its facilities located in key areas in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Mexico, Peru and the US, in partnership with local stakeholders.
  • Reduce global water usage to 3.2 hectoliters of water per hectoliter of production.
  • Reduce global GHG emissions per hectoliter of production by 10 percent, including a 15 percent reduction per hectoliter in China.
  • Reduce global energy usage per hectoliter of production by 10 percent.
  • Reduce packaging materials by 100,000 tons.
  • Reach a 70 percent global average of eco-friendly cooler purchases annually.

The commitments build on the three-year global environmental targets on water, energy, carbon emissions and recycling AB InBev reached at the end of 2012. In March the brewer announced it hit its goal of using 3.5 hectoliters of water per hectoliter of production and decreased energy use per hectoliter in breweries and soft drink facilities worldwide by 12 percent against a 2009 baseline.

AB InBev announced the new goals on its fifth annual global celebration of World Environment Day (WED), an initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

AB InBev cut the amount of waste it sent to landfills by 54.8 percent year-on-year, from 104,946 metric tons in 2011 to 47,341 in 2012, according to its 2012 Global Citizenship Report.

In the same period, the amount of materials AB InBev recycled and composted rose by 2.8 percent, from 5,937,251 to 6,102,819 metric tons, and materials used as fuel rose 27 percent, from 6,038 to 7,648 metric tons.


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HEINEKEN USA Announces LEED Gold Certification in Newly Released 2011 Sustainability Report

Posted by Maggie on October 19, 2012

This article from Sustainable Industries examines Heineken USA’s new LEED certification.

Leading Upscale Beer Importer’s Sustainability Progress Stretches from Carbon Footprint to Fleet

WHITE PLAINS, NY, Oct. 16 /CSRwire/ – Today HEINEKEN USA released their 2011 Sustainability Report, outlining the leading upscale importer’s progress across its “Brewing a Better Future” agenda. Improvement was made in several vital areas of the business, including environmental impact, people and community, and its alcohol-specific focus to promote legal and responsible consumption.

In the report, HEINEKEN USA highlights a number of key wins in 2011 including:

  • Renovated its corporate headquarters in White Plains, N.Y., to meet LEED Gold certification standards
  • Introduced a high-mileage hybrid car into its corporate fleet in the U.S.
  • Sponsored Taxi Magic, a digital platform to help consumers easily book and pay for a taxi ride home after an evening out, provided more than 900,000 taxi rides to consumers
  • Collaborated with members of the Responsible Retailing Forum to publish practices to reduce alcohol sales to minors

“We maintain a long view and seriously consider how our business treats our communities and neighbors,” said Dolf van den Brink, HEINEKEN USA President & CEO. “We are excited about the 2011 sustainability successes, but look forward to building on the ‘Building a Better Future’ platform.”

The 2010 kick-off of the “Brewing a Better Future” agenda introduced a new era of focus around sustainability.  The program design was built based on input from a broad set of stakeholders. The initiative has provided HEINEKEN with a clear road map and reflects our integrated and long-term ambition to become the “World’s Greenest International Brewer.”

Brewing a Better Future focuses within strategic imperatives:

  • Continuously improve the environmental impact of HEINEKEN’s brands and business
  • Empower the company’s people and the communities in which it operates
  • Positively impact the role of beer in society

“At HEINEKEN USA, we lead 20 programs that by 2020 will bring our words ‘Brewing a Better Future’ to life in partnership with our key stakeholders,” said Stacey Tank, Senior Vice President & Chief Corporate Relations Officer, HEINEKEN USA. “These 20 programs demonstrate our values and commitment to people and society.”

The full HEINEKEN USA sustainability report will be available online, and the global version, is available

Comments or questions on the report may be sent to Suzanne McGovern, Manager, Sustainable Development & Alcohol Policy at


HEINEKEN USA Inc., the nation’s leading upscale beer importer, is a subsidiary of Heineken International BV, the world’s most international brewer. European brands imported into the U.S. include Heineken Lager, the world’s most international beer brand; Heineken Light; Amstel Light, a leading imported light beer brand; Newcastle Brown Ale, the leading imported ale in the United States; and Buckler non-alcoholic brew. HEINEKEN USA is also the exclusive U.S. importer for the Dos Equis, Tecate, Tecate Light, Indio, Sol, Carta Blanca and Bohemia brands from Mexico. For a safe ride home, download the HEINEKEN USA–sponsored Taxi Magic™ application from your smartphone at Please visit

This press release first appeared on CSRwire. 

For more information, please contact:

Adam Feigen Manager, External Communications
Phone: 914.681.4138
Elizabeth Brill (Gaines) Account Supervisor, Edelman
Phone: 212.704.4476

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Sustainable Brewing is Everywhere

Posted by Maggie on March 22, 2012

This is from the Brewery Law Blog by Reiser Legal.

Sustainable Brewing Is Not Just A Good Idea – It’s Happening All Around The Country

Posted on | February 24, 2012 | 2 Comments

 The two things that drive my professional career – sustainability and brewing. As a green building attorney, I have spent my entire career following building that trends that make buildings more efficient, more effective and cleaner. The past few years have shown great examples of the integration of green building and brewing. Needless to say – I’m pretty excited about it.

 If you don’t think that sustainable brewing is here yet, check out this short film over at the Beer Activist. Breweries like DC Brau, the featured brewer in the video, are becoming more energy and recycling conscious. Brewers are now condensing steam, reusing cooling water, using graywater for cleanup, collecting rainwater, and turning to solar thermal to heat their kettles.

 One of the best examples of green brewing is Brewery Vivant, the assumed first ever LEED-Certified brewery. Vivant is located in Grand Rapids, MI and not only purchased Renewable Energy Credits to replace energy it consumes, but also follows a number of smart and sustainable business practices in running it’s operation. Utilizing low-travel local materials and packaging beer in cans are just two of the ways that Vivant is reducing it’s carbon footprint.

 Here in Seattle, Big Al Brewing and Hales Ales have each invested in solar thermal to heat their breweries. Each of the installs were performed by Seattle’s Net Zero Impact and feature similar environmental benefits. Energy incentives subsidized the initial investment in the system, which will pay itself off in roughly 2.5 years.

Going green is not hard. From small breweries like Vivant to large craft brewers like New Belgium and Abita (each have industry-leading green brewing elements), we are seeing more devotion to saving water and finding affordable energy.

Brewers in planning? Consider some of these devices in your business plan and talk to your attorney about whether incentives might be available to you.

Posted in Sustainable Brewing | 1 Comment »

Leon Kaye on Breweries Reducing Water Use

Posted by Maggie on November 5, 2011

This article is from the Guardian.  It is from last August but I just ran into it.

Breweries across the world strive to decrease beer’s water footprint

Whether brewed in tiny microbreweries or mammoth bottling plants, beer is often a national icon, from Peja in Kosovo to OB in Korea. A global US$300 billion (GDP£187.5 billion) market, beer also has a huge water footprint, and is frequently brewed in regions hit by water scarcity.

Whether they are small local companies or large multinational firms, many beer companies succeed with sustainability efforts from energy efficiency to the reuse and recycling of beer ingredients and packaging. The most important and yet challenging metric, however, is the reduction of a brewing company’s water footprint.

From the cultivation of the barley and hops necessary to brew the drink to the final bottling of the product, it takes an exponential amount of water to make beer. The UK consultancy Water Strategies estimates it takes 300 total litres of water to make one litre of beer. A WWF/SABMiller study suggests ratios anywhere from 60 to 180 to one.

Whatever the total water requirement may be, brewing companies have more control over beer’s water footprint once raw materials arrive at a plant. The average bottling plant’s water footprint is a ratio of about five to six litres to one litre of beer, but that rate is in decline. Companies including SABMiller (this hub’s sponsor) have promised to increase their bottling plants’ water efficiency. In South Africa, SAB’s water-to-beer ratio stands at about 4.2, that is down from 4.6 in 2008 and the company promises a 3.5 ratio in 2015. Anheuser Busch-Inbev, the global giant that owns Budweiser, Beck’s, and Stella Artois, also has an aggressive goal to lower its water footprint worldwide to a 3.5 ratio by 2012 (now it stands at 4.04). One AB-Inbev bottling plant in Cartersville, Georgia already boasts a water efficiency ratio of 3.04.

Nevertheless, with 98% of that pilsner’s or lager’s water footprint occurring before the brewing process begins, sustainability experts and community activists are urging beer companies to lean on their agricultural suppliers to reduce water consumption. The beer companies have responded and are now more proactive in addressing water issues that will only fester in the coming decades. As is the case with the bottling companies Coca-Cola and Pepsi, water scarcity in developing economies is a huge challenge for brewing companies. While a beer’s brand may have a loyal following in regions as diverse as South Africa or China, it only takes one drought or water shortage to foment local anger when these plants take on an even larger share of a community’s water supply. Forget water recycling projects or new pasteurising techniques: the agricultural supply chain is now on breweries’ sustainability agendas.

One brewing company that has worked on water efficiency projects beyond their bottling plants’ doors is MillerCoors, a SABMiller subsidiary. The company partners with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and works with barley farmers in Idaho to streamline irrigation technologies and to establish best practices for water conservation. The Silver Creek project is part nature preserve and part agricultural laboratory. Trees were strategically planted to keep creeks cooler, which supports the local trout population. Vegetation grows along stream banks, which prevents loose soil and pollutants from entering the water. The simple retrofit of an irrigation pump now disperses water closer to the ground at a low pressure. The results: 450,000 gallons (1700 cubic metres) of water are saved daily. Projects like this not only build trust within local communities, but can ameliorate the impact a large brewery can have on a local community when a drought hits – crucial because a large bottling plant can consume 10 to 30% of a municipality’s water supply.

From more efficient water harvesting to scaled wastewater recycling, more projects like that of InBev’s or SAB’s must ramp up to help beer companies meet a mounting challenge: to meet the increasing global demand of beer by using less water.

Leon Kaye is founder and editor of

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Non-Organic Hops in “Organic Beer” until 2013

Posted by Maggie on June 1, 2011

This was posted in Triple Pundit.  Just FYI.  I am not even brewing organic all the time but I do think that labeling should be correct so that people know what they are buying.

What’s Really in Your Organic Brew?

hops By Inna Volynskaya

Being a responsible beer geek, you opt for a Berkeley-brewed Bison or one of those super green Oregon breweries to quench your thirst. Or maybe you unknowingly bought something that sounded sustainable like Green Valley’s Organic Stone Mill Pale Ale or Organic Wild Hop Lager. The Green Valley label is actually nothing more than Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch attempting to get a cut of the craft beer market. Anheuser-Busch is able to offer you an organic product at a lower price but is that due to its vast buying power or is something else at play?

There are two main agricultural ingredients in beer: barley and hops. Until a new law becomes active in 2013, brewers can use conventional hops and still carry an organic label. Why? The USDA believes that organic hops are not abundant enough to meet the demands of the growing organic beer sector.

Hops are prone to disease and pests, making it difficult to grow them without harmful pesticides. They are also sensitive to climate, which makes them difficult to grow without fertilizer. According to Mellie Pullman, Supply Chain Professor at Portland State University, “Even organic hops may be treated with compounds containing sulfur, copper, and other ingredients that pose threats to the health of both humans and the environment.” These challenges keep organic hops in short supply and this helps the price tag stay three times higher than the conventional crop. Meanwhile, conventional crops are heavily subsidized diluting price signals in the market.

If giants like Anheuser-Busch paid the high price of organic hops they could have a real impact on the industry. However, thanks to the USDA’s excuses, they are allowed to sink their dollars into conventional crops and still get a marketing boost from organic labels. The burden then falls on small breweries to make a real commitment to impacting the hop industry.

The 2013 deadline gives organic hop growers ample time to meet demand but now brewers who have been allowed to get away with false labeling will have to start walking the talk. The Organic Farming Research Association has already granted funds to research new methods for growing hops. Adapting methods used for other organic crops like apples have proven effective in cultivating the most widely used varieties of hops.

What can you do to make sure real organic beer has a future? As always, educate yourself. Question and research what your labels say. Engage your fellow beer geeks on sites like Beer Advocate to proliferate the conversation. Check to see which breweries are really using organic hops and encourage your favorite breweries to do so. The organic labeling loopholes don’t only apply to beer. Visit Organic Consumers to make sure the premium you pay for organic is worth your dollars.

Inna Volynskaya is a San Francisco Bay Area-based sustainable beer enthusiast, food supply chain specialist, and 2012 MBA candidate at Presidio Graduate School.

Posted in Beer and Health, Organic Beer, Sustainable Brewing | Leave a Comment »

Yes, the Organic Beer Market is Growing

Posted by Maggie on May 24, 2011

This article from TriplePundit has some great facts about the organic brewing market.

The Brewing Organic Beer Market

By Presidio Economics | May 17th, 2011

This post is part of a blogging series by economics students at the Presidio Graduate School’s MBA program.

By: Michael Schimaneck America’s craft beer market has grown rapidly in recent years, seemingly outpaced only by its niche organic segment, thanks in part to growing consumer fears about genetically modified foods. While a few of the largest regional breweries currently enjoy widespread distribution, craft brewing remains fundamentally an industry devoted to its local followers, and the results are undeniable.

After growing 7.2% in 2009, the craft brewing industry expanded by 11% in 2010, bringing its share of the U.S. beer market to 4.9%. However, given craft brewers’ generally higher price points than those of macro brewers like Anheuser-Busch Inbev and MillerCoors, this accounted for 7.6% of all sales in dollars. This reflects a growth in retail value of $600 million over the previous year, despite a 1% drop in volume of the entire industry. The number of breweries in the U.S. jumped concurrently to 1,759, the highest such total since the late 1800s. Of these, 1,716 were identified as craft brewers by the Brewers Association.

This dramatic increase in craft beer sales during the recession indicates that consumers’ tastes are evolving so much that they have become willing to accept the higher costs of a premium good like craft beer over cheaper, macro-brewed substitutes, even when their wallets are pinched, leading some analysts to project that craft beer’s share of the domestic market could even climb from 5% to 20% over the next ten years.

While organic beer still makes up only a fraction of the craft beer market, it is gaining ground very quickly. Between 2003 and 2009, U.S. organic beer sales spiked from $9 million to $41 million.  However, with the correspondingly low supply of organic ingredients currently available on the market, organic brewers are subject to higher costs for their inputs than ordinary craft brewers. Suppliers are aware that organic brewers are willing to absorb these higher costs in order to make their beer organic, but these costs are subject to a low ceiling because organic brewers generally refuse to offset their variable costs with higher price points. Instead, they sell their products at prices comparable to the craft beer industry average. While these practices serve to minimize organic brewers’ bottom lines, it simultaneously limits suppliers’ ability to further manipulate prices.

In accordance with the industry’s reputation for innovation, many craft brewers have discovered unique ways to overcome these hurdles. For instance, Bison Brewing Company, a contract brewer located in Berkeley, California, sources all of its ingredients from the American northwest. As their business has grown, they have enacted vertical impacts on their supply chain by driving the conversion from conventional to organic farming practices in that region. Additionally, companies like Sierra Nevada have begun brewing small batches of organic beer using ingredients exclusively grown on their properties.

Because organic farmlands require 50% less energy to maintain than conventional farms, it is likely that if demand for organic beers continues to increase at a similar rate, or even one comparable to the craft beer industry as a whole, then organic brewers will soon benefit from increased profit margins as their average variable costs decline.

Posted in Beer Ingredients, Organic Beer, Sustainable Brewing | 1 Comment »

Canned vs. Bottle Beer: The Great Debate

Posted by Maggie on May 12, 2011

Here is a nice article on this debate.

The Great Canned vs Bottled Beer Debate 2.0: Craft Brewing Weighs In

By Presidio Economics | May 12th, 2011

By Millie Milliken

In the early part of the 20th Century, beer drinkers had only two choices when it came to quenching their thirst for a delicious frothy beverage: draught beer or bottles. It wasn’t until the 1930s that canned beer arrived on the scene. Initially, tin cans could not withstand the carbonated pressure and burst. Eventually, technological developments and the introduction of a vinyl liner proved successful in containing the pressure. Then in 1935, Kruger’s Brewery of New Jersey introduced the first canned beer–Kruger’s Finest Beer–to the market, revolutionizing the beer industry. The canned versus bottled beer debate has raged ever since, and now the emerging mircrobrew trend is putting a new spin on the topic.

The traditional debate has centered on factors including taste, convenience, and cost. Beer is a sensitive beverage and exposure to both light and oxygen results in off-flavors. The caps on bottles are not completely airtight, creating a chemical reaction between oxygen and the hops, whereas cans are impervious to both light and oxygen, protecting the flavor, reducing chances of creating a “skunky” amora, and extending the shelf life. Although proponents of bottles have remained steadfast in the claim that cans produce a metallic taste, there has been little empirical evidence to support the claim. Additionally, the lightweight and portability of cans often prove to be more convenient than bottles for both consumers and producers. In regards to shipping efficiency, the longneck design on bottles wastes packaging space, while cans are able to be efficiently packaged and weigh less, which allows more to be shipped at less cost.

With recent concerns regarding sustainability, overall environmental impact has become a new point of contention in this debate. In evaluating the environmental impact of cans versus bottles, there are many factors to consider, including raw material sourcing, processing techniques, recycling rates, the distance of the container manufacturer to the brewery, and the distance of the brewery to the distribution point. Most certainly, manufacturing aluminum cans is extremely resource intensive.  The mining, refining, processing and transporting of bauxite ore, from which aluminum is derived, leaves an extensive trail of carbon emissions in its wake. Contrastingly, bottles are made from the more abundant resource silica and glass processing has lower overall emissions rates. However, the recycling rate for glass in the US is only 28% compared to the nearly 55% recycling rate for aluminum cans. Moreover, beer bottles contain only 20-30% recycled glass in comparison to the average beer can that is made of 40% recycled aluminum. Recycled aluminum requires 95% less energy and produces 95% less greenhouse gas emissions than manufacturing new aluminum.

The intricacies of energy consumed in producing aluminum versus glass can be debated until the participants are blue in the face, but one thing is certain: the location the beer is produced, the final destination, and recycling efficiencies all play major roles in the environmental analysis.

As stated, an interesting component in this debate is the explosive growth in craft breweries over the last three decades. Increasing from only 8 breweries in 1980 to the current all-time high of 1,759 breweries, the craft brewing industry is an emerging force. Last year, the craft brewer market share was only 4.9% by volume, but the industry experienced an overall growth of 11% and thus far this year, the growth shows no signs easing. As aluminum cans are becoming more sustainable than ever, and the fact that most people live within 10 miles of a brewery, the rise in craft breweries will minimize the distance between production and consumption, shortening traveling distances with lighter loads.

Known for constant innovation in a quest for creating tasty brews, many craft breweries are switching to cans and debunking the myth that only premium beer comes in a bottle. And as to the claim of the metallic taste? Well, this is no longer valid as cans are lined with a water-epoxy ensuring that aluminum and beer never touch one another.  As more breweries and beer drinkers enjoy the environmental and economic benefits of aluminum, we will continue to see the effects on the canned versus bottled beer debate.

Posted in Discussion, Sustainable Brewing | 1 Comment »

CSR at Anheuser Busch

Posted by Maggie on April 29, 2011

This article was just posted on the Triple Pundit website.  Water in increasingly becoming an international crisis.   Brewers will need to take note.

Anheuser Busch InBev’s Big Push to Reduce Water Usage

By Leon Kaye, April 28th, 2011

This week Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) released its 2010 Global Citizenship Report. The report is timely, considering the greater attention businesses devote to water, a resource that is most critical for AB InBev’s long-term success. With 114,000 people employed in 23 countries, the beer brewing and beverage giant has a huge impact on environmental and social issues around the world. The company also can influence kindred companies both large and small to take a second look at how their supply chain and operations affect the communities in which they conduct business.

AB InBev’s 57-page report covers topics across the sphere of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The company’s management and employees have tackled drought, water efficiency, responsible drinking (the original social responsibility), volunteerism, and workplace inclusion. Beer is fast becoming the beverage of choice across the demographic and economic spectrums, and various brands are closely identified with national consciousness from Kosovo to Korea. With four of the top 10 selling brands across the globe, and a portofilio that includes Argentina’s Quilmes, China’s Harbin, and Brazil’s Brahma, AB InBev has worked on many initiatives, including the following:

* Responsible Drinking: Old bad habits stubbornly refuse to disappear, but give AB InBev credit for trying (to discourage both drunk driving and class action lawsuits in America). The company has spent at least US$875 million on responsible drinking initiatives since 1982, collaborated with at least 1100 law enforcement agencies, and coordinated 254,000 safe ride home programs with bars and restaurants. Not even a giant like AB InBev could compete against the blaring vuvuzelas at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but the company did train 9000 servers in Johannesburg on handling imbibing spectators at large stadiums.

* Water Efficiency: The consumption of water is the bogeyman for beverage companies. Most breweries use four to five liters of water for every liter of beer that is processed. AB InBev is set to attain a 3.5 water to beer ratio by the end of 2012. Currently the ratio is about 4.04, down from a 5.03 water to beer ratio in 2007.

* Recycling and Waste: AB InBev claims that is recycles 99% of waste and byproducts that are a result of its overall beer production. In Brazil, for example, the company gained almost US$500 million in revenues thanks to the increased collection of recyclable materials, recycled over 770,000 pounds (350,000 kilos) of plastic, and gathered 2500 tons of total materials that were eventually recycled.

* Employee Engagement: Training is often axed during economic downturns, but AB InBev went against the grain. The company increased the annual number of employee training hours 60% to 1.6 million hours in 2010. In turn they stay: AB InBev employees have an average tenure of 8.8 years.

AB InBev’s Global Citizenship Report is heavy on detail and light on marketing spin. The vast majority of Global Reporting Initiative guidelines are followed, and AB InBev is a strong example of how to responsibly use a most stressed resource, water. Watch beverage companies lead, not follow, when it comes to CSR-related issues in the coming years.

Posted in Discussion, Sustainable Brewing | Leave a Comment »

Chris O’Brien, Brewer

Posted by Maggie on March 20, 2011

Here is a great article from the Chronicle of Higher Education on Chris O’Brien, a brewer and sustainability-focused beer blogger.  What a guy!

March 6, 2011

American U.’s Sustainability Director Adds a Good Beer to His Portfolio

American U.'s Sustainability Director Adds a Good Beer to His Portfolio 1 

Chris O’Brien, sustainability director at American U., brews beer at home. “What I really love about the craft-brewing and home-brewing movements,” he says, “is that they are sustainability movements without intending to be.”

By Scott Carlson


From the sizes and shapes of the bottles laid out on Chris O’Brien’s table, I could tell that my head was going to feel like a wrung-out sponge in the morning. There was the “Beer of the Gods,” by the High & Mighty Beer Co. of Massachusetts; a couple of bottles of Stillwater Artisanal Ales, made by a “gypsy brewer” in Baltimore; a rare bottle of Brooklyn Black Ops, a stout aged in bourbon barrels that weighs in at 11.3 percent alcohol; and assorted others—cidery or hoppy or made with green peppercorns.

Mr. O’Brien, of American University, was undaunted. “Oh, nice!” he said, standing in the dining room of his Victorian house in Washington’s Columbia Heights neighborhood as each new bottle was pulled from its liquor-store bag. Mr. O’Brien also offered his own selections: a red plastic cooler full of unlabeled bottles—entries in an organic-brewing contest, put on by a brewing-supply company of which he is part owner.

As a beer enthusiast, Mr. O’Brien comes with some uncommon credentials. In his little corner of higher education, he is known for his day job as American’s sustainability director. But he may be more widely known as the “Beer Activist”—a fellow who insists that you can save the world by drinking better beer.

A few years ago, he laid out his vision in Fermenting Revolution, a book that was a beer history, a manifesto, and a record of the weird and wonderful in the modern craft-brewing scene. Fermenting Revolution is now being made into an audio book, and Mr. O’Brien will be a speaker at green festivals this year, encouraging people to get back to basics by brewing their own.

“Beer is a metaphor for sustainability,” he said as we were popping caps off bottles. In the years since home brewing was legalized, in 1979, the craft-beer movement has exploded, and beers of that kind often support pillars of sustainability ethics: reliance on local ingredients and labor, a regard for community values, and a love of the artistry and authenticity of the brewing process. They stand in opposition to bland, industrially produced beers, whose giant marketing campaigns—long based on leggy women and sports stars—reduce the beer to mere commodity and the drinker to mere consumer. Colleges and, yes, even students might learn something about sustainability through beer—that is, if we weren’t so uptight about it.

“What I really love about the craft-brewing and home-brewing movements is that they are sustainability movements without intending to be,” Mr. O’Brien said. For a parallel, he pointed to the wood-pellet burner that was heating the room on this winter day. “People like sitting by a fire, and we’re having a nicer time using a sustainable fuel. Beer was the same thing—we didn’t want a product that treats us like idiots.”

We poured a beer and walked around the house, which Mr. O’Brien and his partner, Seung-hee F. Lee, operate as a bed-and-breakfast and also use as a kind of miniature laboratory for sustainable living. Inside, he is experimenting with various energy-saving light bulbs and remote-controlled gizmos that cut off power to devices when they aren’t being used. In the bathroom, he showed off a spray bottle of green liquid that he picked up at a trade show; called “GoFlushless” and redolent of 7-Up, the product claims to mask urine smells and reduce flushing by a ridiculously specific 87 percent. A magazine rack stuffed with back issues of BeerAdvocate sat next to the toilet.

Outside, Mr. O’Brien and Ms. Lee had hung 23 kilowatts worth of solar panels on the roof—more than the house uses. They had set up rain barrels, a bat house, and landscaping to prevent runoff. And on the south side, they had set up trellises for hop bines. “Next year they will grow up the side of the house and help shade the house a little bit, which will improve energy efficiency—and we’ll be growing hops,” Mr. O’Brien said.

He has had a homegrown and anti-authoritarian attitude about beer since college, when he brewed his first batch as part of a class project at Pennsylvania State University. “The idea was to reclaim this product from the corporations and bring it down to the kitchen,” he said.

He continued honing his home-brewing skills through college and graduate school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he was in the science-and-technology-studies program. But when he bought beer, he bought the cheap stuff, to identify with the working class.

His view of professional craft brewers changed after he moved to Washington in 1997 for a job with an environmental organization that promoted green businesses. One night at a bar, a friend bought him a Hop Pocket Ale, by the well-known mid-Atlantic brewer Bob Tupper, and he was blown away as much by the beer as by the story behind it: It was locally brewed, with some profits given to charity. The brew revolution was basically a green movement, happening in a grass-roots way. Mr. O’Brien was determined to write about it.

He got his chance after Ms. Lee got a job in Africa and he quit his job and followed her there. In Eshowe, South Africa, he met the owner of a hotel who was having trouble running the on-site brewery. Mr. O’Brien offered to work as the brewer in exchange for lodging, food, access to the Internet, and use of a car. “I got to learn how to brew professionally for customers who were immediate and critical,” he said. “They were sitting on the other side of the bar, and they told me what they thought.”

He also traveled around the continent, studying the traditional home brewing done by African women as a source of nutrition, entertainment, and income. Despite their skill at making low-alcohol beers from ingredients they grew outside their doors, a skill passed from mother to daughter for generations, many of the women he met were ashamed of their traditional brewing—an attitude that Mr. O’Brien traces to the Western colonizers’ mixed feelings about alcohol. It’s an attitude Americans struggle with, too.

Which is odd, Mr. O’Brien said, given our 10,000-year history of the drink. In his book, he posits that a thirst for beer might have been the urge that prodded us to settle down and create civilization, and that a common drink like beer, not wine, might have been the stuff that Jesus actually drank at the Last Supper.

“Most people, when I tell them that I wrote a book about beer and sustainability, their reaction is, ‘That’s funny,’ ” he said. “We are still so uncomfortable with alcohol that talking about it in a serious tone doesn’t exist. Either you are demonizing it, which doesn’t take it seriously, or you are laughing about it, which doesn’t take seriously its pros and cons as a normal part of life.”

Our grudging tolerance of alcohol is a hangover from Prohibition, Mr. O’Brien said. But it was the pressures of industrialization—men under stress, working long hours far from the moderating effect of their families, with access to high-proof liquor—that led to widespread drinking problems, not alcohol’s inherent vice, he argued.

People under stress, far from families, with access to alcohol—that sounds a bit like college campuses, which of course have their own struggles with student drinking. Given the enthusiasm for sustainability, local food production, and alcohol at colleges, he thinks it would be nice if more of them looked to craft brewing as a way to teach students about local businesses and green living. In fact, a faculty member at American University recently came to Mr. O’Brien wondering about the possibility of putting a brew pub in one of the buildings. But Mr. O’Brien doesn’t see it happening.

“With sustainability in general, you try to make progress where there is opportunity,” he said. “I don’t see there being an opportunity with any of the schools in the Washington area to build a brew pub. I don’t think we’re comfortable enough with alcohol to do that.”

The evening wore on, and we followed Mr. O’Brien’s favorite dictum from Michael Jackson, a great British beer critic: “Drink beer and digress.” We talked about our church upbringings and subsequent falling out, pirate radio stations and punk rock, the decline of The Washington Post.

But Mr. O’Brien always had a way of circling back to one topic. At one point he was talking about the commodification of the media and cable news—how they’re focused on selling something rather than creating a community. Miller and Budweiser did that, too, and people started finding other beers to consume.

“It’s just like beer,” he said. “It all comes back to beer.”

Posted in Discussion, Sustainable Brewing | 1 Comment »

Top Ten Organic Breweries

Posted by Maggie on February 26, 2011

Green Energy News rated the top ten organic breweries in 2010.  They do not explain the basis of their ratings but they do provide a nice blurb on each brewery.  Here are the results.

Top 10 Best Organic Beer Brands

10 November 2010

Organic Beer Brews Are Beneficial for Health & the Environment-

Elliott Bay Brewing Company was the first brewer of certified organic beer in King County, WA. The company has been involved in recycling programs since 2006 when it began an initiative toward 100 percent composting and recycling at their brewing facility. To further offset their energy consumption, the company purchases wind power credits and continues to find new ways to help sustain the environment both locally and globally. Most all of the beer brewed is made with 100 percent organic ingredients certified under the USDA. Its award-winning Organic Hop Von Boorian blend is a Belgian-style India Pale Ale with “through-the-roof hoppiness.”

Eel River Brewing Company, the true American pioneer in organic beer brewing, first set up shop in 1995 at the former site of the Clay Brown Redwood Lumber mill yard in Fortuna, CA. Soon after, ERB received the Gold Medal for their Climax California Classic brew — named after the Climax Engine, a steam locomotive that used to carry logs out of the forest. Many awards later, the microbrewer became the first in America to brew with 100 percent organic ingredients. ERB eventually turned the old lumber mill brewing site into a Tap Room & Grill, and moved its brewing operation to another historic mill in Scotia, CA. The new brewing site now operates with biomass power, using mill leftovers such as wood chips, bark, scrap lumber and clippings. The company offers many types of unique, award-winning infusions like the famous Organic California Blonde, Organic India Pale Ale, and Organic Raven’s Eye Imperial Stout — a dark Russian beer made with the finest Pacific Northwestern hops, designed to keep you warm during those long winter months.

➢Located in Maine, Peak Organic is a small brewing company with a selection of distinctively delicious ales, handcrafted with quality artisan ingredients. Co-founder Jon Cadoux began perfecting his craft at home back in the 1990’s, seeking out the best ingredients from local organic farmers. Years later, the company was established by Cadoux and a few of his friends in Portland. In 2009, Peak financially helped Maine farmers harvest organic hops on a commercial scale for the first time since 1880. What really sets Peak apart from other organic brewers is the creativity and care behind their blends. From their original Maple Oat Ale with real organic maple syrup and Maine-grown organic oats, to their King Crimson Imperial Red with malt and pine tones, this organic brewer is a great choice for those looking to help the planet without sacrificing good taste.

Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown organic ale is crafted with organic wet hops and barley grown at the brewery in Chico, CA. The company normally does not produce organic brews, although this one is its specialty — and for good reason. The Estate Ale is a delectable blend with earthy, grapefruit-like notes and a savory, crisp quality. Sierra Nevada not only provides delicious, artisan brews, but also focuses on lowering its environmental impact by recycling, generating their own electricity with a large solar array, and treating wastewater with a proprietary two-step anaerobic treatment system, as well as fueling their boilers with the leftover methane from that system. An excellent choice for beer and environmental advocates alike.

➢Berkley, CA-based Bison Brewing began using organic ingredients to do their part in helping the environment. Bison encourages organic farming because it saves around 50 percent more energy than conventional farming, nourishes plants and soil, and prevents water pollution attributes to pesticide runoff. According to their site, the EPA attributes 70 percent of the pollution in America’s rivers and streams to conventional farming methods. The brewery offers a wide variety of award winning brews, from the most popular year-round Chocolate Stout blended with cocoa and organic malts, to the seasonal Gingerbread Ale seasoned with roasted barley, caramel, chocolate and black malts. Not to mention, the company has started a “Drink Neutral” program which encourages organic beer lovers to reduce their environmental impact by filling out a pledge to make a small contribution to help offset their beer consumption. Beer reviews and more can be found on Bison’s website.

Pinkus Organic homebrews has roots in the Northern Germany town of Munster, when the founders Johannes Muller and his wife Friederika Cramer set up shop in 1816. The fifth and sixth generation of the family now own and operate the famous Pinkus-Muller Pub/Brewery. Dedicated to quality brews, Pinkus began brewing organic beer in 1980 and was the world’s first brewery to use organically-grown barley malt and whole hop blossoms. The company brews Organic Münster Alt (or Ale), Organic Ur Pilsner, Organic Hefe-Weizen, and Organic Jubilate — a rich, dark lager with a hop finish.

➢Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery started out as a small brewpub in 1988 and has been brewing tasty, handcrafted ales ever since. Its first beers were Black Butte Porter, Bachelor Bitter and Cascade Golden Ale. Since then, the company moved locations and now operates with a 50-barrel traditional gravity brew house and a 131-barrel Huppmann brew system from Germany. Deschutes currently has only one organic brew, the award-winning Green Lakes Organic Ale, which is the first beer brewed with Salmon-Safe certified hops. Using 100 percent organic malted barley and a mixture of Liberty and Sterling hops, this home-grown concoction is both smooth and satisfying. The company is also involved in many community organizations and contributions to promote a healthy and happy planet.

➢Located in Olympia, WA, Fish Tale Organic Ales are a line of completely organic, deliciously handcrafted beers using the finest hops and barley available. Dedicated to both health and environmental sustenance, this brewer works hard to supply a product that is pure and natural — completely free of pesticides or chemicals. Fish Tale has a wide variety of award-winning organic blends available: Organic India Pale Ale; Organic Amber Ale; Organic Blonde Seasonal Ale; Winterfish Seasonal Ale; Soundkeeper Organic Pale Ale; and Organic Wild Salmon Pale Ale.

Butte Creek Organic Brewing Company – located in Chico, California – boldly designates itself as “the official beer of planet Earth”. In 1998, the brewer decided to experiment with sustainability and released its first organic offering: the Summer Organic Ale. With the success launch of its seasonal blonde, Butte Creek now offers organic brews year-round with its delicious handcrafted pale ales, pilsners and porters. To boot, the seasonal Spring Run Organic Pale Ale has a portion of its proceeds donated to Chinook salmon restoration efforts.

Lakefront Brewing, located in Milwaukee, WI, has a large selection of award-winning brews with one organic blend and even a gluten-free option for those with wheat allergies. Organically-brewed Lakefront Organic ESB is an extra delicious British-style Extra Special Bitter blend with citrus and malt tones, and the distinctive New Grist beer is gluten-free –brewed with sorghum rice flour instead of wheat.

Posted in Organic Beer, Sustainable Brewing | 4 Comments »