The Blog for Women Who Brew Beer

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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The Can Van

Posted by Maggie on November 5, 2011

Some women I know are starting a portable beer-canning business in Northern California.   The Can Van is a proposed mobile canning service that would allow local craft breweries to put their beer in cans, save money, and reach broader markets.  Shipping canned beers also is much less carbon intensive than shipping bottled beers.

Cans are a convenient way to enjoy local beers at the beach, camping, at concert, or anywhere glass is not allowed but beer is.   With this micro-brew canning service, you could even get a micro-brew on a plane.  (I say this because I was just at a conference this past week and was not happy with my in-flight beer choices.)

You can learn more about the The Can Van by checking out its IndieGoGo campaign, where you can watch videos, see the founders in action, and contribute to the cause of making good beer more accessible.

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English Ale #21

Posted by Maggie on October 24, 2011

I have a vomiting child at home so, well, I might as well make beer!  I am going to try White Lab’s WLP002 English Ale yeast.  It is described as creating a somewhat sweet beer.  That sound good to me.  Dry wine and sweet beer.  I am using Munich and Vienna Malt, Pilsen dry malt extract, and just a little Cascade and Hallertau.  I hope to get a nice, mild, pale ale.   We’ll see.  This is for a three gallon batch:

  • 3/4 lb organic Munich malt
  • 1/4 lb Vienna
  • 3 lbs Pilsen DME
  • 3/4 oz Cascade at 1 hour
  • 1/4 oz/ Hallertau at 5 minutes
  • WLP002 English Ale Yeast

Instructions: Bring 2.5 gallon of water to 170F.  Add grain in a cloth bag.  After soaking the grain for 40 minutes at 170 F or less, remove.  Bring to a boil.  Add DME.  Add first hops batch.  Boil for one hour, adding second hops batch five minutes before completion.  Put pot in the sink full of cold water and ice.  There is probably about 2 gallons in the pot now due to the boil.  Cool to about 100F.  Poor into sterilized carboy.  Add about one more gallon of cold water to the carboy to get three gallons total.  Add yeast.  Put on a airblock, cover with a dark cover (I use an old sweater), and put somewhere that is at least 70F (depending on your yeast).  

Posted in Brewing Instructions, Recipes | 2 Comments »

Root Beer

Posted by Maggie on October 13, 2011

I was all ready to bottle the fresh hops beer I brewed 11 days ago when I saw that it was still bubbling a bit.  I certainly don’t want any exploding bottles.  So what was I going to do with a nice rack of sterilized bottles and a sterilized bottling bucket and tubes?  Make ROOT BEER!  I bought the flavoring a while ago.  I just needed sugar, dry yeast, the flavoring, water, and the equipment.  What I didn’t have was a good way to measure 2 gallons, which is what the recipe called for, so I ended up with somewhat diluted root beer.  I hope that it still gets carbonated.  It tastes great.  The kids were really happy about that since they think beer is yuck.   It was super easy.  Here is the recipe I used:

  • 1/8 tsp dry yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 TBL root beer flavoring (I purchased it at my local brewing supply store)
  • 2 gallons of water (I used 2.25 since I ended up with 24 bottles ((12 oz. x 24)/128 oz. = 2.25)  

Mix well, bottle, wait 4-6 days for carbonation to take place. 

I’ll write about how it turns out. 

Wow – it’s great!  The carbonation level is perfect.  Who knew I could use the yeast I use for waffles to make root beer?  The flavor is a bit diluted due to the extra water but it is very refreshing.  We made ice cream floats with it on Friday.   And the cost per bottle is slight.  I made 30 bottles with about $1.00 of flavoring, $0.50 worth of sugar, $0.20 worth of yeast.  I had to use electricity and natural gas to sterilize the bottles ($1.00?) and I used iodine for the equipment – another $0.50.  And I used tap water which is pretty cheap per gallon.  Say it was a total of $3.00.    So $0.10 per bottle.  That is hard to beat.

Now I want to make vanilla soda and real root beer with natural ingredients.    

Posted in Recipes | 3 Comments »

Review of Elevation 66

Posted by Maggie on October 9, 2011

On Friday night I finally made it to Elevation 66.  We arrived at 6:15 and had to wait 20 minutes for a table.  It was completely packed, which was nice to see.    When people invest time and money on a new venture and follow their hearts, you want them to be successful.   The atmosphere is very pleasant although loud when that full.  It was not designed with kids in mind but there were plenty of families there.  There were two items on the menu for kids – kid’s burger and kid’s grilled cheese.   We ordered classic pub food – burgers with fries, ribs, fish and chips.  The fish and chips were truly excellent.  Best I have had.  It was served with aioli.  We had to get thirds of the aioli it was so good.   The burger was excellent.  The ribs were a bit salty.  Too much hoisin sauce.  The food other people were getting also looked great (salads, humus, sandwiches, steak.)  I would go back there just for the food!

The beer:  The golden ale was sold out, unfortunately since I like paler ales, so I sampled three other beers:

Ester’s Vanilla Stout (3.5%):  This is well named because it is a woman’s beer – rich and not sharp.  It is dark with a tan head of perfect consistency, with a lovely vanilla flavor.   It is like a vanilla Guiness.  Yum.

Rumble Tumble Red Ale (6%):  Again, perfect level of carbonation, classic red ale flavor, smooth after taste.  I didn’t like it as well as the stout but it demonstrated that these folks know what they are doing.

East Bay IPA (6.3%):  I am the last person who should be reviewing an IPA because they are just too bitter for me.  The smell was good but the taste…well, not for me.  I have friends who would like it.  

They also serve beers from other breweries.

Clearly, these folks are professional brewers who put a lot of thought into their decor, menu, and location.  I’m impressed.  I’m looking forward to going back to try the ale and other items on the menu.

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Bud = Michelob = Coors < Miller

Posted by Maggie on October 7, 2011

This cracked me up.   The rest of my household didn’t find it quite as funny.  This is from the New York Times.

Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite: Is There Any Difference?

By Eric Asimov

It’s true that the craft-beer movement of the last 30 years has exposed a lot of Americans to the idea that good beer is complex, flavorful and distinctive. It’s also true that Americans buy an enormous amount of terrible beer. Six of the 10 best-selling beers in the United States are light beers, including Bud Light at No. 1 (it outsells No. 2 Budweiser by more than 2 to 1), Coors Light at No. 3 and Miller Lite at No. 4. Because huge budgets are devoted to television advertising, industry analysts say that light-beer sales are “marketing driven.” Basically, what the beers taste like is less important than the effectiveness of their ads — Bud Light’s “Real Men of Genius” or Miller Lite’s “Be a Man” campaign or Coors Light’s labels that turn blue when properly cold. And apparently there is a need for the latter — sales of Bud Light and Miller Lite have declined for three straight years as Coors Light has shown modest growth.

I recently sampled the best-selling light beers to see if there was any palatable difference between them. The results: Coors Light offered no smell and no taste, but as the label indicated, it was indeed cold. Bud Light, which promises “superior drinkability,” had only the faintest hint of bitterness but was otherwise devoid of flavor. Miller Lite was the clear winner. It seemed almost robust by comparison, but still hardly bitter. For added thrills, I drank a Michelob Ultra, the 12th-best-selling brand. Now here was a beer that truly tasted like nothing — no smell, no taste, not even the cold sensation of the Coors Light. If you want to drink basically nothing, Michelob Ultra is for you.

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Fresh Hops #20

Posted by Maggie on October 1, 2011

My friend, Adrian Assassi, gave me a bag of fresh hops from his garden.  He isn’t sure what variety it is.  I have no idea the bitterness.  However, in the spirit of medieval brewers, I am going to use these hops for this batch and hope for the best.   What is the worst than can happen?   Even #16, which I thought was my first disaster brew, actually improved with time and my friend Norm said he loves it, so we traded a partial case of beer for a case of plum wine.   Yes indeed.  Plum wine with sake on ice is very good.  

I put the hops in the freezer as soon as I got them to help keep them fresh.  I don’t know how long ago they were picked.  It isn’t polite to ask too many questions about a gift.  They are not super fragrant.  The pellets I usually use are far more fragrant.   I’ll be fine if this is a low-key beer.  I am adding them to the wort in a mesh bag so that I can remove them easily.  

I am such a domestic goddess today:  making waffles, sewing curtains for my daughter’s room, and brewing beer.  This is the recipe for a truly happy homemaker. 

Fresh Hops #20:  for 3 gallons

  • 1 lb. Organic Crystal 60
  • 3 lb. light dry malt extract
  • White Labs Cream Ale Blend WLP080
  • 3 cups fresh hops (That’s right, I don’t even know the weight!  How unprofessional.)

I am crossing my finger for this one.

I bottled this after 16 days.  I have never waited so long to bottle before but it was still bubbling two weeks in.  Hmmm… Could this be related to the hops?  I’ve used WLP080 before and never had such a long fermentation.
I couldn’t wait to try this so opened one last night, just 9 days after bottling.  It was great.  Very smooth.  I think that it will get even better over the next few weeks.  Yippee!

Posted in Discussion | 2 Comments »

Elevation 66 in El Cerrito Now Open!

Posted by Maggie on September 11, 2011

The local brew-pub is now open.  It is on San Pablo at Central in El Cerrito, CA.  I will check it out soon and write a review.  Very exciting!  I was at Pyramid Brewery yesterday and had the apricot ale.  It was very delicious.  I also had a BLT and salmon.  Odd but good.  I wouldn’t recommend the fish in the fish and chips.  Not so good.  However, they have a great atmosphere and it is kid friendly.  I hope that Elevation 66 is as good.  I can walk there. 

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Brewpub Opening in my Neighborhood

Posted by Maggie on July 23, 2011

Not that I have a reason to ever buy beer….but I love the micro brew trend and I love that these folks are pursuing their dream.  Here is a short article written by a neighbor.   I don’t think that it has opened yet but I will check it out when it does to see what they have on tap.

Brew Pub Eyes July Opening — “98% There”

It hasn’t opened yet, but El Cerrito’s new “Elevation 66” brew pub near Cerrito Theater has created considerable buzz.

  Operators of the new El Cerrito brew pub that’s been slowly taking shape near the Cerrito Theater on San Pablo Avenue hope to open next month, the head brewer told El Cerrito Patch.

“We’re 98 percent there,” said brewer David Goodstal, one of three partners behind the Elevation 66 pub at 10082 San Pablo Ave. “We’re hoping to open in July.”

He said on Tuesday that the opening date will depend on when the pub can clear all the local, state and federal regulatory hurdles, including various permits and inspections.

Public interest in the pub has been high, he said. It will be El Cerrito’s first brew pub, at least in the modern era.

The three partners, who formerly worked together at Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley, had originally hoped to open in February.

The 50-seat establishment will serve “artisan beer and artisan food,” said Goodstal, a veteran of the master brewers program at UC Davis.

Large stainless-steel tanks made in China stand impressively behind the long redwood bar. The bar and the suspended “Elevation 66” sign outside the front door are made from recycled old-growth redwood that a century ago was part of a huge wine vat, Goodstal said. The recycled bricks helping to hold up the bar came from an old Victorian in Oakland, he said.

A chef has been hired to prepare food to serve with the beer brewed on the premises, he said.

A smaller, upstairs portion of the establishment features a pool table, flat-screen TV and space for darts.

The pub is two doors north of the Cerrito Theater and next door to Nông Thôn Vietnamese restaurant, which sits on the southeast corner of San Pablo and Central Avenue.

The “Elevation 66” name was chosen because, according to the founders, the pub site is 66 feet above sea level.

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2010 Homebrewing Trends

Posted by Maggie on July 22, 2011

I just ran into this article on ‘Billy Brew’ (   I know a number of people who are starting to brew beer now so, unless it is a local phenomenon, there must be an increasing trend.    I guess that it goes along with the grow-your-own-food, keep-chickens, etc. trends.   I looked up ‘home brewing’ on Google trends.  Searches have increased.  The country where the most searches are performed?  Australia.

What’s Hot in Homebrewing? 3 Interesting Trends from the 2010 National Homebrew Competition

by Billy Broas

Last month, the National Homebrew Competition (NHC) announced its winners at the National Homebrewers Conference in Minneapolis. Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend, but I still had a burning question – what are homebrewers up to these days?

Trends in the commercial beer world are easier to spot. We’re exposed to them through the news, social media, and of course, what we see on our trips to the beer store. Canned beer, imperial [insert any beer style here], and sours are all recent crazes.

But following homebrewing trends is trickier. Batches aren’t posted on some central database for all to study.

Are homebrewers increasing in number? What styles are they brewing? What are the trends?

The NHC gives us some insight into these questions. As the largest homebrewing competition in the world, it provides a good barometer for measuring homebrewing trends.

I put my geek hat on and compiled the data from the past 5 years of competitions. What I found was surprising.

National Homebrew Competition Trends

The first thing I wanted to look at was how many homebrewTotal NHC Entriesers were entering the competition. Was its popularity on the rise or decline? This high-level look gives an idea of the current state of homebrewing in the country.

As seen on the first graph, entries in the competition have risen by 40% over the past 5 years. Entries have risen every year except in 2009 (what the hell 2009?), and the largest jump took place this year when entries rose 22%.

Bottom line: homebrewing’s popularity is increasing.

Onto the next question. I wanted to figure out what styles people were brewing, and what they weren’t brewing. This “style popularity” was the main thing I was interested in. Am I normal in my affinity for brewing IPAs? The data tells all…

Most National Homebrew Competition Entries by Category - 2010

Hmm that is interesting. Looks like American Ales were the most popular style by a large margin. For clarity, the American Ale category refers to pale ales, brown ales, and amber ales. I guess that shouldn’t be too shocking – American brewers are making American styles. But I thought the IPAs would have given them a better run for their money. I’m even more surprised that stouts and Belgian & French Ales beat IPAs.

Maybe we’re not the hopheads we thought we were?

The bottom of the pack is not surprising. Ciders and meads are still very much a sub-niche of homebrewing.

On to the third and final graph. So American Ales are the most popular, but I wanted to know what was hot. That is, what styles are being entered at the fastest rates. Who is on their way to being the next Mr. Popular?

Biggest Increase in Entries - National Homebrew CompetitionClick image to view larger version

Amber Hybrid Beer? Huh?

The Amber Hybrid Beer category consists of Northern German Altbier, California Common, and Dusseldorf Altbier. There were 152 entries in this category in 2010 vs. 100 in 2009. I gotta say that this one surprised me.

Whatever the reason, Amber Hybrids were hot this year.

Bonus Trend

Ok so I wasn’t content just looking at the fastest rising stars versus last year. That could be an anomaly. A better question is what style has increased in popularity the most over the past 5 years?

Answer: Standard Cider and Perry. Maybe the ciders won’t be a sub-niche for long?

If you’re like me and are in desperate need of a more active social life, then here is the Excel file to play around with to your heart’s content.

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