By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Throughout the brewing process, we as homebrewers can adjust our methods to reduce the amount of impact we have on the environment. There are several options available, from simple changes that are affordable to more time-consuming and costly investments in an eco-friendly brew system. Unfortunately, homebrewing will always generate some waste. But if we minimize our impact, we can preserve the brewing hobby for future generations.
Getting Started on Sustainability
Depending on your particular brewing system, you will have varying levels of waste from various sources, including spent grains, spent hops, yeast sludge and even cooling water runoff. If you use a wort chiller, you can utilize the hot water runoff for cleaning purposes. You could even collect the water runoff and start your next batch of brew. In the past, we have discussed reusing yeast, but you can also use the yeast in your garden or compost pile. If you are feeling adventurous, the spent yeast is what the Australians use to make Vegemite, so you might experiment with this unique spread. Unfortunately, spent hops can’t be reused or put into anything other than the compost pile. The spent grain, however, can be saved and used in a variety of different ways. We have all heard of spent grain dog biscuits, but you can make all manner of baked goods. There are plenty of recipes on the Internet. But most baked goods call for flour and a liquid of some kind. That being said, it’s easy to add your wet spent grain and omit a portion of the flour and liquid. If you decide to play around with a recipe, you should probably use a favorite cookie or cake recipe that you’ve made plenty of times, that way you know if you have the right mixture and ratios. Of course, the spent grain can go into compost piles, but where are the fun and cookies in that?
Let’s say you’re an accomplished homebrewer and waste as little possible. There still may be a few little changes that you can make to ensure the brewing process is even greener. Most of the alterations that can be made are mentioned above. The most significant waste is the water runoff that occurs while chilling the wort. The least expensive way to save on your water waste and costs is to hook up a rain barrel to your home’s gutter system. The easiest way to access the water is by hooking up a sump pump to your wort chiller. You can put the outgoing water from the wort chiller back into the top of the rain barrel. As long as the barrel is more than half full, you’ll be able to chill up to 10 gallons of wort without warming the liquid in the rain barrel too much. You can also use the water for cleaning, just not for brewing. You may even want to add a second rain barrel to collect the runoff, allowing you to use every drop in your first rain barrel and not risk heating your chilling water.
No matter how sustainable you want to make your brew system, some small changes can make the entire brewing process more efficient. Even if the goal isn’t to save the planet, sometimes saving our bank accounts has the happy side effect of helping the environment.
CSC IPA [AG]
CSC IPA [Extract]
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.