Breweries around the country are outdoing one another when it comes to going green. No longer is giving spent grain to farmers the sole solution. Companies are now looking at the entire sustainable picture, investing in expensive energy systems and changing ingredients.
WBUR details a few examples in "Survival of the Greenest Beer?"
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California has built a CO2 recovery system to capture the gas created during fermentation and recycle it back into operations.
- SAB Miller, based in London, is experimenting with cassava root to possibly replace barley malt for something less expensive and more sustainable .
- The Alaskan Brewing Company is turning spent grain into an energy source by building the world's first grain-burning furnace.
The non-profit Green Brewing Project is helping breweries like these reach sustainable goals. Director Jarrett Diamond says, "It used to be that just sending your spent grain from the brewery to the local farmer to give to their cattle was enough to consider to be a sustainable operation. Breweries are really taking much bigger steps now."
Justin Dean, a Cincinnati restaurateur and chef, used to just take spent grain from Mad Tree Brewing. But now, with partner Richard Stewart, of Carriage House Farm, they also take wort waste to make vinegar.
Mad House Vinegar is in the early stages of making artisan vinegar in flavors like blackberry, spice bushberry and anise hyssop and strawberry mountain mint.
Mad Tree and Listermann Brewing provide Mad House Vinegar with the leftover wort. Stewart and others add the fruit and shrubs. Stewart points to a hillside on Carriage House Farm. "There's 300 grape vines where we're going to be producing wine. Then, we will be fermenting that in a two-stage process and creating a red wine vinegar, a white wine vinegar. We also have Asian pears."
Mad House Vinegar admits making vinegar isn't high tech, but it is using what would otherwise be waste.
Diamond says some breweries are installing solar panels on their roofs and working with utility companies to buy renewable generated electricity. Other measures include pre-treating their own wastewater, generating bio-gas, heat recapture and smarter uses of refrigeration.
On the back of a truck at Carriage House Farm in North Bend, Justin and Richard are having a taste test of their latest batch of vinegar.
"Wow, it's mellowed out a lot. Just over a few weeks and the color has darkened up quite a bit!," says Justin.
They are working with local high-end chefs to sell the product and are in the process of building a production facility. One potential problem, as breweries become even more sustainable there could be less waste to make their vinegar down the road.
This story originally aired July 13, 2015.