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Sustainable Brewing: Tips for reducing your environmental impact

Chris Jensen · April 22

 

For many, brewing represents a battle between the want to conveniently brew excellent beer and the desire to minimize one’s environmental impact.

There are no two ways about it: brewing beer takes a lot of resources. Regardless of whether you’re a modest homebrewer or a world-renowned pro, you still have to heat your water, cool your wort, clean your equipment, and develop your sugars. Many professional breweries have implemented sophisticated systems to waste less water, recapture energy, and reuse their resources. But what about us measly homebrewers?

In honor of Earth Day, here are a few tips that we’ve picked up along the way:

  1. Reduce your water usage. Intense water usage may be the number one environmental impact of brewing. Most pro breweries use 5-8 barrels of water for every barrel of beer they produce, and I’d wager that most homebrewers are far less efficient than that. We can do better. The most important thing is to be smart with your water: think through your water usage. Where are your most intense water usage and what can you do to reduce it? For me, I realized I was using a ton of water in the cooling and cleaning phases of my brew day. So, I invested in an inexpensive pond pump which I use to recirculate cold water from a cooler filled with ice through my wort chiller and back to the cooler. As the initial water coming out of the WC is hot, I’ll first use this to fill up a plastic bucket halfway with clean water, and my HLT with water + PBW. From there, I can move the PBW through each of my vessels as I clean them one by one, and use the clean water from my bucket to rinse. Even better, the cold water from my cooler helps me cool my wort faster than ever. I probably use 1/4 of the water I did before the pump.
  2. Use less gas: for me, this meant incorporating electricity into my set up with a heatstick. Yes, the heatstick pulls from the grid which is most likely fed by coal, but I’ve found the combination to be far more efficient than gas alone, and cheaper to boot.
  3. Reuse your resources: this could range from equipment to the aforementioned water, etc. One of the things I’ve done is find a great use for my spent grain. When I finish brewing, I give my grains to a friend who feeds them to her chickens. The grains are a good source of nutrition for the chickens, which in turn benefits me as I get free, farm-fresh eggs! Just post your grains for free on Craigslist and you’ll have plenty of willing takers.

What techniques do you use in your brewery to reduce your impact?


 

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