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No Beer, No Cheer: Small Brewers Push to Defend Clean Water Act

Leon Kaye | Friday July 12th, 2013 | 2 Comments
lakefront brewery, nrdc, clean water act

Organic beer starts along the Milwaukee River at Lakefront Brewery

Beer is one of the oldest beverages enjoyed by man and woman alike. Since the Egyptians tinkered with frothy beers over 5,000 years ago to the current White House occupant (hey, perhaps proof Obama is from Africa, just not Kenya), beer occupies a special place, usually a glass, across many cuisines and cultures.

And beer is growing in popularity, from developing economies across the globe to the countless microbreweries appearing in large cities and towns on both sides of the pond. And for brewers both large and small, clean water is critical for their future. The large beer behemoths, including AB Inbev, have been in a race to decrease that water-to-beer ratio, and in the meantime have significantly slashed water consumption throughout the supply chain.

But it’s Friday, so let’s talk about the good stuff made by the small time brewers who have transformed beer and made it better from Milwaukee to Portland, Maine. In the process they have given new life to old buildings, sparked economic development and inspired sustainable development. Now working with the Natural Resources Defense Council, they are pushing the U.S. federal government to buck up and defend the Clean Water Act.

The NRDC so far has signed up almost two dozen craft breweries to ensure local water supplies across the country remain safe. Of course the campaign is more than about beer—public health and environmental stewardship are at stake.

Here are a few example of what brewers are accomplishing on the environmental and water fronts—and also participate in the NRDC’s push for a real Clean Water Act:

New Belgium Brewery, Fort Collins, CO

Maker of Fat Tire Ale and other popular brews, New Belgium Brewery is a prime example of the challenges breweries face on the sustainability front. The company has a goal to lower its water-to-beer ratio to 3.5 by 2015, but it has been a roller coaster. As of 2011 that ratio stood at 4.22, a jump from the previous two years. But New Belgium is still a sustainability leader: its waste diversion rate is an impressive 94 percent—only 5.6 percent of the company’s waste ends up in landfill. The company’s energy intensity, as in megajoules per hectoliter, has decreased annually since 2008. From its generous bicycling policy to what look like awesome hop brownies, the company’s blog is a great journal eschewing public relations banter and instead offers a genuine discourse on what it takes to be a truly good company.

KelSo Beer, Brooklyn, NY

Companies love talking about “corporate citizenship,” but KelSo does more than talk, it walks the walk. The company requires suppliers to submit environmental statements, reduces its carbon footprint by consolidating deliveries and is a voracious donor to countless local causes. Donations of beer have raised tens of thousands of dollars for many causes in New York City and beyond.

Central Waters Brewing Company, Amherst, WI

With almost 20 beers within its portfolio, Central Waters matches quality with responsibility. The brewery works with local farmers to source hops and barley grown as closely as possible, uses solar and solar thermal energy for much of its power requirements and sources bottles from what it claims is the greenest bottle manufacturer in the U.S. This business was “green” far before most of us knew what green business meant. And by the way, its Glacial Trail IPA is sublime.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

[Image credit: Leon Kaye]


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  • http://www.printecosoftware.com/blog Michael Ponte

    Based on this and some stories I read last month about MillerCoors in Colorado being zero waste and recycling everything, I’m pretty impressed by what all these beer companies are doing in terms of working towards a better environment since although they create potential negative impact with cans/bottles if not recycled, they also get impacted if we can’t maintain clean water. And it just further shows thats everything people do is tied into the environment in which we live, and the give and take relationship is key.

  • JohnG911

    I am a home brewer and I use plain old tap water to brew my beer. My beer taste better than most commercially brewed craft beers but its not because of the quality of my tap water. Being able to brew beer from a local stream will certainly save the brewer money but it won’t prevent a brewer from making a good tasting beer. Lets be honest, this is about profit and its not about the environment or brewing a good beer.