Sustainable Brewing. Part III: Energy and Carbon Reduction

Reducing thermal and electrical energy use—and thus reducing carbon emissions—impacts brewers’ environmental and financial sustainability by reducing both contributions to global climate change and energy expenditures, which can account for as much as 8% of a brewery’s overhead costs (Olajire, 2012; Sloane, 2012).

Some low-cost energy efficient strategies that nearly any brewery can adopt are efficient lighting and installing motion sensors (Brewers Association, 2017a). These technologies do not require the significant upfront capital costs that some of the other technologies require (e.g., onsite renewable energy sources) and can pay for themselves in a matter of a few weeks (Olajire, 2012). One example is Rising Tide Brewing, a brewery based in Portland, Maine; this brewery invested in motion sensor LED lighting, decreasing energy use by 70% in the taproom (Rising Tide Brewing, 2019). A fun fact here: Rising Tide has a beer called Zephyr, whose label portrays a wind farm; this is actually what led me to: (a) buying the beer; and (b) checking out their web page.

Regional breweries driving the sustainability movement are investing in onsite renewable energy sources and reducing transportation emissions. For example, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Mills River, North Carolina location has 10,751 total panels producing 20% of the brewery’s energy and was the first brewery to be awarded platinum LEED certification in 2016 (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, 2019). A second example, and my personal favorite, is New Belgium’s Internal Tax Policy. In summary, the tax states that for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of non-renewable energy the brewery uses, they tax themselves at a given rate. These funds were diverted into a fund from 2013 to 2018, where the intention was to use these funds to invest in onsite renewable energy resources. Now, 18% of the energy used at the Fort Collins location is produced using onsite solar and bio-gas technology (New Belgium Brewing Company, 2019). Not all breweries can engage in these extensive practices, but another option is to locally source ingredients.

Although the Pacific Northwest (PNW) accounts for nearly 95% of hop production in the United States, smaller hop markets are opening up in states such as Michigan, Colorado, and Indiana (Ha, 2017). This has allowed breweries to reduce their transportation costs and emissions by locally sourcing some of their ingredients. Some brewers have even begun growing hops on-site. Once again, Sierra Nevada leads this charge with their Chico, California location having a ten-acre hop field and one hundred acres dedicated to barley production (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, 2019). As a brief aside, the same hop grown in the PNW will taste different than hops grown in, say, Michigan. This leads to a direct change in the bitterness, taste, and aroma of the beer. Therefore, the question becomes: how much does the consumer value the localness/reduced emissions? Is it enough to offset the change in sensory characteristics that shift? Or, do they actually like the beer more with the new hops?

Though some of the technologies for reduced carbon emissions require significant capital expenditures, Olajire (2012) states training staff members can have a significant impact in reducing energy use. Whether it be through the formation of an energy management team or energy audits to generate awareness of energy use in day-to-day operations, brewers could reduce energy consumption without investment in sustainable technology (Olajire, 2012).


Once again, Olajire (citation below — if unfamiliar with how to use full citations, just copy and paste into Google and it is the first link). New Belgium and Sierra Nevada have a lot of cool information on their site. Check out if your favorite brewery has any sustainability information on their webpage, and leave a comment below if you find something neat! Would love to check it out.

New Belgium Brewing Company. (2019d). We’re New Belgium and We Pollute. Retrieved May 13, 2019, from New Belgium Brewing Company webiste:

Olajire, A. A. (2012). The brewing industry and environmental challenges. Journal of Cleaner Production, xx(2012), 1–21.

Rising Tide Brewing. (2019). Sustainability. Retrieved June 16, 2019, from Rising Tide Brewing website:

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. (2019a). Hops & Barley Fields. Retrieved October 8, 2018, from Sierra Nevada Chico Sustainability website:

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. (2019b). LEED Certification. Retrieved October 8, 2018, from Sierra Nevada Mills River Sustainability website:

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