To celebrate the Munich Beer Festival now getting underway in Germany as we blog, we did a quick survey of the 10 leading carbon-balanced and eco-friendly beers on the market today.
It’s a problem that challenges every business, old and new – how to become more sustainable. Around since the stone age and going nowhere fast, the beer business is rapidly adapting to the changing world environment of the 21st century. Not to be a drag, but the lovely craft of brewing is an environmentally intensive business. Beer uses up water and land and fermentation generates CO2 and waste – and that’s before it gets into your refrigerator. But hey, we wouldn’t have got to where we are today without some CO2.
From the Stone Age
Tests on shards of pottery reveal that the history of beer goes back at least 7000 years. Fast forward from the Stone Age to now, and the beer business is still growing, and will reach $690b by 2020. From craft brewers with 50-cask runs to global giants like Diageo (Guinness) and Heineken, fermenters of all sizes are getting on board the environmental gravy train. As customers are lapping it up, brewers see the value in having an eco-friendly brand or two in their stable. Besides, balancing environmental effects can squeeze out costs. For their part, hop-heads just like the flavour even more.
The 10 most carbon-neutral beers
1 Sierra Nevada, USA
From the upstart American craft brewing sensation Sierra Nevada, for whom “reduce, reuse, recycle” wasn’t a catchphrase as much a business model. Starting out small in 1979, the Sierra Nevada sustainable brewery turns out some of the best selling craft beer in the US market. Apart from organic ingredients, the influential Californian brewery is solar powered, driven by bio-diesel, treats its own waste water to irrigate its next crop of barley, practices energy efficiency and even feeds the local beef cattle on leftover grains. A comprehensive zero-landfill waste policy means 99.8% of Sierra Nevada’s solid waste is diverted from landfill.
2 Guinness, Ireland
The black stuff got a green makeover recently as the Irish brewer completed a €168m upgrade to its Dublin HQ in 2014. The environmental, technological and efficiency gains are delivered to the highest rating. Combined heat and power (CHP), energy recovery, recycling, passive heating, and energy efficiency all combine to give the new Guinness brewery an A1 environmental rating.
3 Adnams, England
Adnams launched East Green, what it called the first carbon neutral beer brewed in the UK. Biogas, reused grain, reused food waste, reused energy, water, all the things, dual fuel trucks, an energy-saving air-locked building, reduced weight in its glass bottles – these are all built into the Adnam’s production model since the start of the decade. The results? Vastly lower operating costs, improved resilience and a good marketing opportunity plus a good, crispy beer that is delicious with prawn-cocktail flavoured Pringles, or anything, really. East Green is 25% less carbon intensive to produce than other beers, according to the company.
4 Gratzer, Austria
The Gratzer Brewery produce an award winning carbon-neutral beer, the first of its kind in Austria. Given that the brewers realise that they are “entirely dependent on an intact nature”, they looked at their entire production chain from grain to malting room and even through transport to compile all the CO2, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Any emissions they were unable to avoid they offset through the voluntary carbon market.
5 Bear Beer, Kyrgyztan
The oil-rich former Soviet republic is busy modernizing its economy. Situated along the Silk Road, the central Asian country has a growing beer market. The CEO of Bear Beer, Aitmamat Nazarov, wanted to build his new plant to the highest international standards, meaning insulation and energy features. Enduring harsh winters, the factory was rebuilt from the ground up with highly insulating materials to reduce energy consumption, carbon capture and energy management systems. Now one of the domestic leaders in the soft drinks and beer markets, Bear Beer increased profitability while being kind to the environment.
6 Cascade Green, Tasmania
Australian region Tasmania is home to Cascade brewery, who declared their Cascade Green to be carbon neutral at every stage of the production from picking of the hops to the packaging of their lightweight bottles in recycled cartons. The brewer’s parent company, Fosters, is pleased. “Reducing our carbon footprint makes good business sense,” a spokesman says, saying Cascade Green is “an important input into our continuing group efforts to reduce our global greenhouse gas emissions.”
7 Norrebro Brewhouse, Denmark
The Norrebro Bryghus in Copenhagen kindly extends an invitation to its customers to take joint responsibility for enjoying the beers brewed on site. Not only is D
enmark the world’s leading per-capita consumer of beer, the capital Copenhagen has the bold ambition to be the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025.
It’s a sign of good taste as the Bryghus is home to a gourmet restaurant in the food capital of the North, where it’s used as “an inspiration, an ingredient and a spice.” The gastronomic experience can be all the better enjoyed knowing it is not adding to the sum total of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
8 Bavaria, Netherlands (sic)
With a qualified proclamation, Dutch brewer Bavaria has declared itself in 2011 to be the first carbon-neutral brewery in the world. As a pillar of its Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, Bavaria was the first food or drink business to implement ISO 26000, the standard for sustainable business operations. Now a world leader in reduced water and energy consumption, the family brewer is not stopping there as it sees the point in handing the business on to future generations.
9 Tenby and Cwm, Wales
Two Welsh breweries, Tenby and Cwm Rhondda, are recipients of a recent “going green” award from the 2016 edition of the Good Beer Guide by Camra (Campaign for Real Ale). (Cwm also wins a special Celestial Green Ventures award for the shortest word which is unpronounceable) The Welsh microbrewers are interested in growing full-flavoured craft beer but leaving as little impact on the environment as possible. Tenby recycles as much as possible – from the brewing equipment to feeding leftover grains to livestock. Cwm source their water from a natural spring on their property which is combined with local hops and barley for unique, high quality ales. “Being environmentally friendly is a big thing for us,” says Grug Jones, owner and brewer, “It’s not only cost effective but it helps the surrounding area at the same time.”
10 New Belgium
“We’ve gotta measure what we want to manage” declares the sustainability page of the New Belgium website. Their main metrics are water, waste and emissions. With greenhouse gas accounting they have set themselves the goal of reducing the carbon footprint in their brewing process by 25% by the end of 2015. They consider the breweries direct and indirect emissions and then try to reduce their carbon footprint using internationally agreed methodology, for a delicious craft beer that is the number one best seller in the USA.
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