The Benefits Of Sustainably Produced Beer

Craft brewing has been exploding in the U.S. with sales growth of 15 percent in 2012. Brewing beer can be an ecological disaster or a environmental success story, depending on where a producer sources their ingredients and how they dispose of used water and grain. According to the MIT Sloan Business Review, an academic business journal, it takes 5 liters of water to make 1 liter of beer. Brewing also involves a considerable amount of spent malt that doesn't end up in the final product. How a producer chooses to deal with these issues should inform your decision about which beers to purchase.

A recent article in The Austin Chronicle, a Texas-based weekly magazine, featured a profile of Jester King, a craft brewer located the Texas Hill Country that adheres to a principle of producing beer "as close to the earth as possible". Jester King ensures that all of their grains are cultivated organically to avoid harmful chemicals and pesticides finding their way into the beers. 

Another brewer mentioned in the same profile, Independence Brewing, recycles water from their heat exchanger and gives spent grain to the owner's great-grandfather to feed his livestock.

Unfortunately, the legal process for obtaining an organic label is time-consuming and expensive, so many brewers who otherwise follow all guidelines for producing sustainable, organic beer don't bother with certification. Some brewers that do carry certified-organic labeling include Wolaver's, Goose Island Brewing Co., Eel River Brewing Co. and Butte Creek Brewing Co. The Brewers Association, an industry trade group, recently published guides for craft brewers detailing best practices for sustainable brewing, including waste water and solid waste management. As craft brewing and green living trends intersect, consumers can look forward to more environmentally friendly options.

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