By Adam Fleck
For the Oregon Beer Growler
We in the brewing industry measure, analyze and manage everything we can when it comes to what goes into the Northwest’s world-famous beers. However, something that doesn’t get as much consideration is what comes out the other side of the brewery. No, not the beer. I’m talking about effluent. Waste. Refuse. The primary discharge from a brewery isn’t the spent grain, trub or hop sludge — it’s actually water.
For every gallon of beer, as much as 9 gallons of water goes down the drain. This is due to all of the rinsing, sanitizing and cleaning that is necessary in any given brewhouse. But many breweries have found ways to become more efficient. For instance, Widmer Brothers Brewing and Full Sail Brewing use less than 3 gallons of water for each gallon of beer they produce. We’ll explore some of the ways that breweries reduce both the amount and concentration of effluent.
The first step is to find out just how much water you’re using in your process. Measure everything! How much water is going into your cleaning cycles? Sanitation cycles? Do you have a restaurant or taproom as well? Those areas need their own water analysis separate from the brewery. Once you have some basic numbers (they don’t have to be exact), you can start to see where your biggest improvements can be attained. Identify critical control points, which is similar to a general quality control program — so if you’ve already done that, water efficiency will be easy.
It helps to appoint a “water czar” or whatever title fits your brewery’s culture. From a personnel standpoint, this gives ownership over a task that someone can take pride in. Plus, it looks great on a resume! This person can be in charge of finding specific procedures in your brewery that would most benefit from a reduction in water use without impacting the quality of the beer.
One way to reduce brewery effluent is simply to use less water. I know this sounds fairly simple, but keeping this in mind can alter the way you look at even the simplest tasks. For example, put down the hose and pick up a broom — or better yet, a squeegee. Your brewery most likely has smooth floors, and pushing dirt and debris closer to the drain before rinsing can drastically reduce water used for non-brewing purposes. That’s what we want to achieve here: less water, more beer. Also, a brewhouse that is constantly moist is a healthy breeding ground for bacterial beer spoilers.
When wastewater is finally leaving the brewery, even after all of the water savings you were able to accomplish through your water analysis, it ends up being more concentrated with chemicals, dust, dirt and organic waste. Some municipalities even have regulations regarding what exactly you can flush down the drain. Wastewater treatment plants often demand measurements of pH, turbidity and Biological Oxygen Demand. But please, don’t use the same pH meter on effluent as you use for your mash!
By treating wastewater, increasing the water efficiency of the brewhouse and keeping water consciousness in the minds of all brewers and staff, we can help maintain the Northwest’s most valuable brewing resource: water. If you would like to get involved in water conservation, nonprofits like Oregon Brewshed Alliance work closely with breweries to safeguard our natural resources and protect forest watersheds.
Adam Fleck is the founder of Willamette Valley Mobile Testing, which provides contract quality control for small and midsize breweries.
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 email@example.com.