The process of brewing beer has a major effect on the environment, from how it gets its ingredients to what goes into powering operations. So many brewers are being more conscientious about sourcing and where they get their energy too — some even turning to solar power as an alternative resource that offsets the demands made by production: today there are over 140 breweries in America who use this sun-powered option for themselves.
In 2017, Anheuser-Busch announced a shift towards 100% solar and wind energy for its craft subsidiaries by 2020 as part of the Elevate initiative. “We identified early on that the craft partners are invested in sustainability,” says Megan Lagesse, head of communications for Brewers Collective. For example: Goose Island composts; Elysian diverts their spent grains to farmers; everybody wanted more value added with solar panels."
These breweries, in addition to using solar power for their own operations, also work with on-site wind turbines and other sustainable practices that help the environment. They work hard not only to produce great beer but do it responsibly as well; like brewing what is known as a “COOL” beer which can reduce both water usage and CO₂ emissions by 90%.
In a continuing trend, craft breweries are pledging to use sustainable and renewable resources in their brewing process. From big name breweries such as Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker, and Ninkasi to smaller production craft breweries, the companies listed below show that the sustainability movement is not going away any time soon.
Firestone Walker has been in business for over 25 years because they're always looking ahead and seeing what will happen next. They celebrated their anniversary this year by launching a new sustainability initiative, Brewing for Tomorrow – which covers three topics: clean energy, water conservation, and waste elimination.
One very tangible realization of this commitment is Firestone Walker’s new 9.7 acre solar array which now houses one of largest on-site solar setups in the craft beer industry thanks to it's recent launch. This development was made possible by the company’s ongoing focus on sustainability for the past 10 years and is culminating into an exciting time where the majority of their beers will be brewed from CA sunshine.
The storied American craft brewery’s influence reaches across coasts thanks to its nationwide distribution channels and it's brewing outposts in both California (CA) and North Carolina (NC). Sierra Nevada is able to generate about 2½ MW solar —including roughly 2 MW in Chico, California and 600 kW at the North Carolina location — providing about 20% and 7% of their energy needs respectively. The company is also expanding its sustainability efforts in East Coast markets by forming partnerships with like-minded organizations such as the new western NC recycling cooperative--which was created jointly between Sierra Nevadas.
In a joint effort with the creation of an Asheville recycling drop-off site near its headquarters, Sierra Nevada has helped create vital recycling infrastructure for 80 breweries in their region. Instead of sending brewing industry waste to landfills, these local businesses now have access to companies like Recycling Industries who will gladly take on this responsibility and help give them new life as materials—rather than letting them go down into landfills where they can never be used again. In tandem with its partnerships, Sierra Nevada has been steadily implementing sustainable practices throughout their own facilities. They’ve installed solar panels on the roof of each brewery which produce enough energy to power all non-brewing needs for these locations—including refrigeration and air conditioning.
In the spirit of sustainability, New Belgium Brewing has been a pioneer and leader for breweries. The company's Force For Good reports have shown that they are constantly striving to reach their goals in this field by installing solar panels at their Fort Collins brewery back in 2010 as well as expanding them recently--reaching nearly 300 kilowatts on-site solar power!
Maui Brewing Company has made a commitment to producing 100% of their electricity needs with solar. The brewery, with a flagship location in Lahaina that produces 60,000 barrels of beer per year, is now able to produce "grid-independent" beers and are one of the first breweries in America to do so. Maui Brewing’s Cofounder, Garrett Marrero, is a craft beer enthusiast who was born in San Diego during the 1970s. He grew up enjoying microbreweries with his family who has lived on both coasts for decades now - including California's Bay Area where homebrewing is a way of life. Hawaii became Garrett’s second love after he visited when he was 25 years old, which coincided with his first visit to a brewery back home since college days in Pennsylvania. Upon returning from those trips to paradise (Hawaii), it took over three months before Garrett found decent locally-made beers there or anywhere else that wasn't Kona Brewing Company...and so began their legacy as one of America's most successful small breweries.
Although Hawaii’s state legislature has committed to powering the state using 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, the cost of power in Hawaii is one challenge that business owners face but Garrett and his wife Melanie found a way to save. When they first started their company, the two searched for ways to cut costs on everything from dresses at thrift stores down expensive dinners out with friends.
The facility, itself, impresses with its size and innovative practices. The 85,000-square foot building includes a 5,800 square feet main cold box that houses 12 stainless steel fermentation tanks totaling 940 barrels each as well 18 fermenters at 250 barrels each. All of these are powered by sustainable energy alone without any use of petroleum or gas for power needs in the future! The panels and batteries on the roof provide 80% of power for this facility. Solar thermal systems cut down propane gas consumption by 50%. The biodiesel generator makes up the rest to cover any loss from solar energy or if there is a shortage in demand, ensuring that residents have uninterrupted access to heat water.
Since their founding in 1996, Stone Brewing Company has always been committed to sustainability and quality, but in 2008 they went one step further by installing solar panels at their Escondido headquarters. The switch helped slash the company's energy consumption nearly in half, while offsetting more than 538 thousand pounds of carbon emissions over the lifetime of these powerful photovoltaic cells—the equivalent to planting 204 acres worth of trees. Stone also features locally grown ingredients on all its menus that maintain this commitment not just for beer drinkers but foodies as well; now it is widely considered San Diego County’s largest purchaser of local produce from small farms.
Boonville, California’s Anderson Valley Brewing Company has been operating partially on solar power for nearly two decades and has plans to expand their solar array this year to cover 100% of their solar needs as well as storing excess power to help the community as a regional resource should power outages arise. In an additional effort to combat climate change, these makers of one of the most delicious amber ales around (Boont Amber Ale) have installed an environmentally inert generator that harvests from ambient air, functioning as a replacement for 70% or more of the emissions produced at the facility.
It’s not just the regional and national breweries and brewpubs that are using solar energy to cut expenses, promote sustainability, and brew some amazing craft beers. In addition to Stone Brewing, local favorites such as Thorn Brewing and our neighbors down the street (and after work favorites) Pure Project have all taken steps towards brewing environmentally responsible.
Pizza Port, another local favorite, “went solar” with Sullivan Solar Power and protected itself from future electric rate hikes way back in 2013, when we installed a 117,235-watt solar photovoltaic system at the location, which due to it’s large, flat rooftop was an ideal location for PV technology to capture sunlight and produce electricity. The roof mounted system comprises 440 locally manufactured Kyocera solar panels.
The solar energy system installation at Pizza Port not only saves money and creates more renewable power, it also prevents 290,743 pounds of harmful carbon dioxide from being released into the air while saving the brewery more than $50,000 in electricity costs.
The Brews from the Sun competition combines craft beer lovers and the many regional and micro craft breweries across the nation who have made the choice to go solar. It’s an exciting way to find breweries powered by the sun close to you. Every year, more and more of America’s favorite solar-powered breweries compete for a chance at being crowned champion! Not sure how many solar-breweries are near you? Use this resource list as your guide on where they may be hiding in your neighborhood or state. Alternatively, if there is one nearby that hasn’t made the list yet….you can encourage them to participate next time around! Check out the list of 2019 winners here.