The Brewers Association just released its annual list of Top 50 U.S. Craft Brewing Companies of 2012 based on sales volume. A craft brewery is defined as a small, independent brewery that produces less than 6 million US beer barrels. From this list, we culled through the breweries to find which ones had the strongest sustainability programs in place. We understand that this could be a contentious list, and that there are many breweries that didn't make the cut that do incorporate eco-friendly practices into their business operations. Your favorite brewery is much like your favorite sports team and loyalties run high, so if you disagree with our selections, by all means, please let us know in the comments!
This list of 6 favorite sustainable craft breweries was selected based first on the Brewers Association list of top selling breweries, which is determined by sales volume. Then we went to each brewery’s website to learn more about their sustainability program. Since there are no eco-certifications for breweries, it’s hard to compare apples to apples, but we think these six are doing a pretty good job. These companies are committed to energy efficiency, water use reduction and overall attention to their impact on the planet. But we were surprised to learn that most of these companies don’t even offer a truly organic beer. We think this should change.
Sierra Nevada, Chico, CA
We were plumb blown away by Sierra nevada’s impressive sustainability program. With a 2 MW photovoltaic system and a 1 MW fuel cell on site, the brewery creates 60% of its own electricity. Add to that with a slew of energy efficient strategies, greenhouse gas emissions reductions programs, an on-site wastewater treatment facility, and a 97% diversion program and composting system that keeps waste out of the landfill. Find out more about Sierra Nevada’s programs here.
New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, CO
New Belgium has long been regarded as the darling of the sustainable breweries, landing the No. 3 spot on the 2012 Brewers Association list. The brewery has a 200 kW photovoltaic system that provides 3 percent of its power and the brewery gets the rest of its energy from wind farms. New Belgium divert 94 percent of its waste from the landfill and has a number of impressive programs in place to reduce water usage, greenhouse gas emissions and energy. The brewery also have a Sustainable Purchasing Guidelines in place and you can find out on their site where all their ingredients come from. Learn more about New Belgium’s sustainability programs here.
Bell’s Beer, Kalamazoo, MI
Last year, Bell’s Beer completed a new state-of-the-art facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan that boasts a green, sedum roof, cool roof, high efficiency systems and a geothermal system for heating and cooling. They also have their own farm nearby where they grow barley for their Midwestern Pale Ale, Christmas Ale and Harvest Ale. They divert 93 percent of their waste from the landfill, are working on reducing water consumption, and are always increasing their energy efficiency. Find out more about what Bell’s Beer is doing here.
Harpoon Brewery, Boston, MA
Boston’s Harpoon Brewery is dedicated to being a good neighbor and as such it was awarded the Boston Green Business Award in the spring of 2012. To achieve that, the brewery has a number of energy-efficient strategies in place, like motion sensors and more energy-efficient chiller and freezers. Spent grain is given to local farmers rather than sending it to the landfill, and the brewery’s waste water is treated on site. Harpoon also recently installed a new cogen system to increase the facility’s efficiency. Learn more about what Harpoon is doing to reduce their impact here.
Boulevard Brewing Co, Kansas City, MO
You may remember hearing about Boulevard Brewing Co’s new, energy-efficient facility when we wrote about it last fall. In addition to that, they are working towards becoming a zero waste facility and even helped start a glass recycling facility in their home town. Wastewater is treated on-site and some of it is recycled, a gorgeous green roof reduces cooling loads, and spent grain is sent to local farmers. Read more about Boulevard’s sustainability program here.
Alaskan Brewing Co, Juneau, AK
Even though Alaskan Brewing Co’s ingredients have to travel a long way by boat to get to up to Juneau, the brewery works hard to minimize its impact. They were the first craft brewery in the United States to install and operate a carbon dioxide (CO2) reclamation system, which is a natural byproduct of the brewing process. Alaskan also sends its spent grain to farmers, but they dry it out beforehand to make shipping by barge more manageable. In addition, the brewery is also developing improved methods to reduce water consumption and make the most out of the precious resources they have. Check out more of Alaskan Brewing Co’s policies and practices here.
So, now that you’ve seen our picks, what are yours? Which is the most sustainable brewery of them all?