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Sunday, July 22, 2012

The New “Green Beer”

Up until recently, the term “green beer” referred to a beverage rarely seen except on one particular day of the year: St. Patrick’s Day. However, due to consumer demands for more eco-friendly products - from the cars we drive to the food and beverages we consume - the term “green beer” has slowly begun to refer to something else. In fact, if you mention “green beer” (as long as it isn’t March 17th), most people will immediately recognize that you’re referring to an alcoholic beverage produced under environmentally-sustainable conditions, rather than beer that is actually green in color. So, which beers are green and which aren’t? Yeah, you can’t tell just by looking anymore. Here are five breweries that are more than happy to don the color green:

Full Sail Brewing Co.
Located in Hood River, Oregon, this brewery only operates 4 days a week for 10 hours a day (Full Sail Brewing Co., n.d.). You may think this is a ploy by the staff to get a three-day weekend, but it actually conserves both energy and water. Believe it or not, compared to other breweries, Full Sail Brewing uses 3 million fewer gallons of water each year (Brown, n.d.). In addition, they recycle, recycle, and then recycle some more! For instance, they use 100% recycled paperboard for packaging (Full Sail Brewing Co., n.d.).

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Located in Chico, California, this brewery has taken some major steps to reduce their power consumption. They’ve installed over 10,000 solar panels that produce 19% of their electricity and hydrogen fuel cells which produce 48% of their electricity (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., n.d.). Think this is all just a way to cut back on one HUGE electricity bill? Think again! On top of reducing their electricity consumption, the brewery recycles whenever and wherever possible. In fact, they’re able to keep a whopping 99.6% of the solid waste their facility generates from winding up in a landfill (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., n.d.).

Eel River Brewing Co.
Located in Fortuna, California, Eel River was the world’s first certified organic brewery (Eel River Brewing Co., n.d.). On top of being certified organic, this brewery has made a lot of strides in sustainability. Their brewing facility in Scotia, California runs completely on bio-mass renewable energy, which is electricity generated from waste that would otherwise be tossed in the nearest landfill, become food for forest fires (ex. scrap lumber), or burned (Eel River Brewing Co., n.d.).

Steam Whistle Brewery
Located in Toronto, Ontario, this brewery may be able to help you out if you’re in the mood for some St. Patrick’s Day beer - the bottle, if not the beer, is actually green by both definitions of the word. The green bottles of Steam Whistle are made with 30% more glass which means they can be washed and refilled up to 45 times - about three times more than the standard brown bottle (Steam Whistle Brewery, n.d.). You may also notice that their bottles don’t have the traditional paper logo. Instead, Steam Whistle uses a painted logo on their bottle to conserve trees and eliminate glue and dyes that can contaminate the water when bottles are washed (Steam Whistle Brewery, n.d.). It isn’t just the bottle that will have other breweries green with envy. Steam Whistle uses water from a nearby lake to regulate the temperature of their facility (Brown, n.d.).

Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Located in Cleveland, Ohio, this brewery is also a restaurant and they are looking out for the environment at every stage of the game. They use all their waste somewhere - either in the brewery or the restaurant. For example, leftover grain is used in the soil at their farms where they grow produce and hops (Great Lakes Brewing Co., n.d.). When the beer is made and it’s time to package it up, the need for green doesn’t stop. Packaging from the Great Lakes Brewery is 100% recyclable (Brown, n.d.). When it’s time to ship the beer to thirsty consumers, Great Lakes Brewery is still thinking about the environment. Their distribution trucks run on vegetable oil leftover from their restaurant (Brown, n.d.).

There are a lot of breweries taking steps to make their beer as green as possible. However, depending on where you live, green beer simply may not be available. What do you do then? Well, here are some tips to help you protect the environment while enjoying a beer:

Keg - When possible, choose beer from a keg (on-tap), rather than a bottle or can. Even after washing the glass and transporting the beer, a keg still has a lower carbon footprint than cans or bottles do (green24, 2011). In addition, kegs can be refilled more times than a bottle.

Hometown advantage - When choosing a beer, pick one that is locally made. Even if your local brewery doesn’t have all the green initiatives mentioned in this article, less energy has probably been consumed in transporting it to you (versus you picking a beer made on the other side of the country).

Recycle - Okay, it may sound really obvious, but it’s worth saying again: recycle! Always put your empty cans or bottles in the recycle bin.

Supply and demand - Ask your local watering hole for a green beer...and it probably wouldn’t hurt to explain that you’re asking for an environmentally-sustainable product and aren’t so drunk you think it’s St. Patricks Day (otherwise they may cut you off). Just remember, if there’s a demand for the product they’ll start to carry it.

Liquor is quicker - Understand that beer is typically the least eco-friendly option among liquor, wine, and beer. Unfortunately, beer requires a whole process of heating, cooling water, and agriculturally-intensive ingredients like hops (Hudson, 2012). Makes you really appreciate all the green initiatives those five breweries have put in place, huh?

Don’t feel too guilty if you can’t order a beer from one of the breweries mentioned in this article. The heavyweights have been making some progress in the green arena as well. For instance, Coors captures 1.5 million gallons of ethanol generated by brewing beer and sells it to Colorado refineries to be transformed into fuel (The Good Human, 2010). While the major players may not have yet caught up to the smaller breweries mentioned here, every little bit helps to protect and sustain our planet. What’s the best thing about the new green beer? It’s appropriate for everyday drinking!

About the Author

Lindsey Brickell writes for Washington Class 12 Permit on alcohol related topics related to a healthy and green lifestyle.


Brown, E. (n.d.). Organic Beer and Beyond: 10 Eco-Friendly Breweries. Retrieved from http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/latest/organic-brewery-0625

Eel River Brewing Co. (n.d.). Sustainability. Retrieved from http://eelriverbrewing.com/sustainability

Full Sail Brewing Co. (n.d.). Responsibility. Retrieved from http://www.fullsailbrewing.com/responsibility.cfm

Great Lakes Brewing Co. (n.d.). Sustainability. Retrieved from: https://www.greatlakesbrewing.com/sustainability/other-sustainability-projects

Green24 (2011). Eco-friendly beer - the green beer lover’s choice. Retrieved from http://www.greenerideal.com/lifestyle/home-and-garden/8961-eco-friendly-beer-green-beer-lovers-choice/

Hudson, J. (2012). What’s the Most Eco-Friendly Way to Get Drunk? Retrieved from http://www.theatlanticwire.com/business/2012/04/whats-most-eco-friendly-way-get-drunk/50971/

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (n.d.). On Site Power Generation. Retrieved from http://www.sierranevada.com/environment/solar.html

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (n.d.). Recycling. Retrieved from http://www.sierranevada.com/environment/recycling.html

Steam Whistle Brewery (n.d.). Green Initiatives. Retrieved from http://www.steamwhistle.ca/ourbeer/greenInitiatives.php

The Good Human (2010). 5 Eco-Friendly Craft Breweries Doing The Right Thing. Retrieved from http://thegoodhuman.com/2010/08/17/5-eco-friendly-craft-breweries-doing-the-right-thing/

Elena White is the founder and editor of  Life The Green Way, corporate sustainability coordinator at her day job, and a "rurban" wife and mother.  Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter at @Lifethegreenway.

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