By Matthew Diment
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sustainability is a concept that goes hand-in-hand with the ethos of most craft brewers. How can we make the best beer possible while minimizing the impact to the environment? Breweries such as Full Sail, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada have set a high bar with solar arrays, water reclamation projects and carbon offsetting. These concepts are great, but may not be affordable for a small brewer. Therefore, are there things that can be done at various levels of ability to invest in sustainability? The answer is a resounding yes. There are affordable options for every level, from startup mode to the mature brewery.
You may have already adopted some sustainable business practices. One thing that almost all breweries do is recycle spent grain. Usually it’s donated to a local rancher to feed their cattle. Often there is an arrangement whereby the same ranch’s beef is served in the brewery’s pub, bringing it full circle. Even in the absence of a clear market for the spent grains, creative solutions can be found. Alaskan Brewing powers its boiler using spent grain. Most brewers also use a heat exchanger, which can help conservation efforts. Heat generated during the wort-cooling process can be employed to reduce energy consumption for the next batch. Upgrading your heat exchanger can be a good way to gain efficiency in the brewhouse while reducing your energy consumption.
For a new brewery, looking at equipment layout can be a good way to reduce energy consumption. Where can gravity be used rather than pumps? Where should fermenters be located relative to the other equipment to reduce pumping distances? Is there used equipment that will work as well (albeit not look as pretty) as new equipment? Designing your brewery with plans for expansion can help avoid problems in the future as well. Rather than adding tanks based on where space might be available, planning ahead can bookmark a logical location for future tanks.
More established breweries can look at creating parti-gyle brewing, which utilizes the same batch of grain for more than one beer. Lights can be set to motion sensors to turn off when areas are not in use and/or LED bulbs can be swapped with less-efficient options. Low-flow faucets and toilets can be installed. Additionally, recycling and composting waste from your tasting room or brewpub shouldn’t be overlooked. Another great and visible way to increase sustainability is through community involvement. Giving discounts to customers and employees for using alternative transportation or partnering with a charitable organization to host an event are easy ways to do this.
Brewery owners may later start to examine more efficient and expensive methods of sustainability. Government sources of funding should not be ignored. Often there are grants or low-interest loans that can assist in purchasing advanced equipment. Additionally there may be tax credits available for the installation of efficient equipment. A financial or tax advisor should be consulted prior to any purchase.
Remember, you don’t need to be making 100,000 barrels of beer a year to be able to make an impact on the community and environment. We can all do our part.
This information was provided by Matthew Diment, of Kernutt Stokes, CPAs and Consultants. Matthew and a team of professionals serve the craft brewing industry. For questions or more information, contact Matthew at 541-687-1170 or firstname.lastname@example.org.