Feel Better About Sustainable Beer and Wine

Producing beer or wine can leave a significant eco-footprint: Both require water-intensive processes and, as the Berkeley-based environmental magazine Terrain reports, “even mid-size breweries can generate tens of thousands of tons of solid waste each year.” But Terrain brings good tidings, too, of a handful of Northern California breweries and wine companies making sustainable strides, harnessing their waste and byproducts to power their own production processes. Here’s just one example:

The view from atop Chico, California’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Company roof is breathtaking. Blue skies and sun — the first clear day the region has seen in weeks — shine on a dizzying quilt of 10,000 rectangular solar panels. The brewery’s 200,000 square feet of blue silicon plates make it one of the country’s largest private solar arrays, but a row of large silos off to the left offers another glimpse of the company’s attempts to operate off the grid.

Each of those silos contains almost 25,000 gallons of beer. To craft that beer, brewers boil the grains, filter out the solids, cool the product, then add yeast to the liquid. That slurry sits in fermenters — the silos — for ten to fourteen days. Yeast, a single-celled organism, eats sugars from the malt and hops. As it digests its food, the yeast exhales carbon dioxide and produces alcohol. But instead of releasing the greenhouse gas into the air, Sierra Nevada diverts it to a storage tank, where it is cleaned and pressurized. It later plays a vital role in the brewery’s operations, adding carbonation to some of the brews and pushing beer from one boiler to another via a labyrinthine series of tubes and pipes. “Our philosophy is a closed-loop approach,” says Cheri Chastain, Sierra Nevada’s sustainability coordinator. “We take the byproducts of brewing and use them for something we need.”

This both saves money and reduces greenhouse gasses, she says. “Carbon dioxide is usually a big purchase for carbonation and dispensing,” Chastain explains. “With the recovery system in place, we’re not releasing carbon dioxide and we’re supplying a hundred percent of what we need. It’s a free fuel source and we have it on-site, so we might as well use it.”

This post was originally published by the UTNE Reader.

 

Related Stories:

Will Your Favorite Wine Go Extinct?

Women In Agriculture: By the Numbers

Healing Vets Through Sustainable Farming: The Farmer Veteran Coalition

 

Photo courtesy of BlakJakDavy via flickr
Written by Danielle Maestretti, a UTNE Reader blogger

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42 comments

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran4 years ago

Thanks.

Valerie G.
Valerie G.4 years ago

Thanks for posting your article.

Die Hard
Die Hard4 years ago

Rob and Jay, you are delusional, and you seriously need psychiatric help.

Your numbers are lies, your claims are lies, and your hysteria is indicative of a serious mental disorder. You sound like you come from a badly dysfunctional home, of which alcohol was a major symptom of your "adult caretaker's" mental illnesses.

Get help. Now. Seriously.

Die Hard
Die Hard4 years ago

We make our own, one small plastic keg at a time. No wastes are produced. The fermented leftovers (gross) are composted in the radish box. (Anyone want some radishes? Holy moley.)

Everything is recycled. Even the plastic keg came from a thrift store.

The kicker? This isn't a farm. This is a two-story townhouse across the highway from a strip mall. The only animal is a small cat. Who supervises her own catnip planter.

Yes, you CAN "get back to nature" in the middle of the city. Just do it.

Tim Cheung
Tim C.4 years ago

tks

John S.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks, I drink beer.Glad to know companies and people are trying to improve the process.

clara H.
Clara Hamill4 years ago

Interesting I don't drink wine or beer though.

Fareena Narine
Fareena Narine4 years ago

noted thanks

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Maira Sun
Maira Sun4 years ago

GRACIAS!