Water, grain, hops, yeast—look at the basic ingredients for beer and you’d think it’s a relatively green industry. But the truth is, brewing is an energy and water intensive process. Growing grain and hops usually entails the use of pesticides. Bottling the beer in cans and 12-ounce bottles demands resources. Shipping the beer from the brewery to your favorite bar or store takes oil. When all is said and done, the beer in your hand has quite the carbon footprint. The good news is you can take steps to ensure that your beer is as green as possible. Follow these three easy steps to drinking green beer.
Step 1: Buy Local
A number of breweries are making an effort to reduce their environmental impact. New Belgium and Sierra Nevada both have impressive green programs, but the greenest beer you can buy is the beer that’s brewed closest to your home. On average, a beer travels 1,000 miles from the brewery to your liver. And that’s just domestic brew. Drink your favorite New Zealand import and you may as well be running over whales with a Hummer.
Step 2: Buy Certified Organic
A few years ago, finding a certified organic beer was about as easy as finding Osama Bin Laden. Luckily, the number of organic beers has increased recently (Budweiser even has an organic option). To be certified organic, a brewery has to use 95% organic ingredients, which means no pesticides or petroleum-based fertilizers are used in the growing of crops. The leaching of these commonly used products is one of the greatest sources of water pollution in our country.
Step 3: Buy Growlers
Yes, you can recycle cans and bottles, but why not take them out of the equation altogether? If you’re drinking at a bar, drink draft beer. If you’re taking beer home, look for beer offered in a growler, a half-gallon jug you can clean and refill at the brewery. With growlers, remember to drink the beer within a few days and use hot water, not soap, for cleaning.
And the Eco-Winner Is…
What’s the greenest brewery in our region? By our estimation, it’s Pisgah Brewing Company, in Black Mountain, N.C. Pisgah Brewing Company has been producing organic beer since they first tapped their kegs in 2005. While many breweries will produce a limited-release organic option, Pisgah is the only Southeastern brewery that only brews certified organic beers. Even more important, they have made a conscious effort to only distribute in the Asheville area,
keeping the beer miles to a minimum.