Local Beer Will Save us All

local breweryWe all knew it, didn’t we? That the world’s salvation might at least partially be found in that most ancient and beloved of humanity’s discoveries: beer and fermentation. Ever since President Carter deregulated the U.S. beer market in 1979, a great and largely unsung accomplishment in this writer’s opinion, the U.S. has burst into a beer renaissance. Those small breweries are helping to revitalize communities. They’re giving us new places to fraternize with friends and family, and a sense of town pride. And many craft breweries are becoming early adopters of cutting edge, clean technology, putting clean tech into real world use.

For example, Bear Republic Brewing Company in Cloverdale, California, population 8,618, has become the world’s first industrial scale adopter of a bioelectrtic wastewater treatment and reuse system created by Cambrian Innovation in Boston. The system, dubbed EcoVolt, is about the size of a cargo shipping container and is kept on the brewery’s premises. The containers are modular, so a company can add more units as its water treatment and electricity needs grow. The EcoVolt takes waste water in, processes it using bioelectric microbes (or what I like to call “critters”), and pumps clean water and methane out. I’m sure the good folks at the MIT spinoff company, Cambrian Innovation, have a more detailed explanation of the process. It’s only super-science at its best.

Basically, the brewery’s waste water goes in one end of the EvoVolt system and comes out the other end as reusable water and methane. The water can be used for brewing. The methane can be used on the premises for either heat or electricity or both. All very useful for a brewery. Or a winery. Or a food processing plant. The system reduces Bear Republic Brewing Company’s carbon footprint, sewage and water costs, and produces enough heat and electricity to compensate for over 50 percent of the company’s baseload electricity use.

Less waste. Fewer resources. Lower carbon footprint. And an estimated 25 percent return on investment for the company annually. Annually!

Meanwhile in Michigan, home to Grand Rapids, recently voted Beer City (my stomping grounds), breweries are finding savings and a sense of purpose in powering their operations with solar and sourcing materials locally. Brewery Vivant is in a LEED silver certified building while working toward a goal of 10 percent on-site power generation, with a goal of 25 percent beer inputs grown within 250 miles of the brewery.

Arbor Brewing Company in Ann Arbor, Michigan and its sister company Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, Michigan became Michigan’s first solar breweries in 2012 when they installed over $350,000 in solar photovoltaic, solar-thermal, and geothermal technologies and energy efficiency measures.

The local pubs making local beer seem a strange launching ground at first for a more sustainable, cleaner world. But these craft breweries really are about bringing things closer to home. About being more bonded to and mindful of our communities. The water they use is our water, and more importantly, our beer. Preserving that resource is important to the community and to the business model. Clean, locally produced energy, and locally sourced grains and hops, brings that experience even closer to home.

In my home town, where the industrial economy collapsed and the down-town along with it, we’ve got two new breweries that are becoming a source of town pride. And an important driver of foot traffic in the down town area. Good, locally produced beer is about people. It’s about planet. And yes…it’s about profit.

Eric Justian

Eric Justian is a professional writer living near the natural sugar sand beaches and singing sand dunes of Lake Michigan in Muskegon, Michigan. When he's not wrangling his kids or tapping at his computer, he likes to putter in his garden, catch king salmon from the Big Lake, or go pan fishing with his boys.As a successful blogger his main focus has been energy, Great Lakes issues and local food.Eric is a founding member of the West Michgian Jobs Group, a non-profit organization that evolved from a Facebook page called Yest to West Michigan Wind Power which now has over 8000 followers. West Michigan Jobs Group promotes independent businesses and sustainable industries in the West Michigan area. As the Executive Director of that organization he has advocated renewable energy as both a clean energy alternative for Michigan and a new industry with which to diversify our economy and spark Michigan innovation and jobs.

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