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7 Tips for the Earth Conscious Homebrewer

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[caption id="attachment_110558" align="alignright" width="159" caption="Homebrewing Setup"][/caption] By Inna Volynskaya You have probably read enough Triple Pundit articles to know that the craft brewing industry is exemplary in the area of sustainability . But how about your homebrewing operation? Here are a few tips and thoughts to make your "carb0y footprint" a little lighter. Chime in with your tips in the comments! 1. Community In addition to being fun, being part of a brewing community will help you be a smarter and more sustainable brewer. You can learn from others’ mistakes to avoid wasting resources and share ingredients like hops or yeast for more interesting beers.  You can find established communities online or in-person brewclubs to learn, share, collaborate and compete. 2. Size Matters Just because you have a 5-gallon carboy doesn’t mean you have to use it every time. When trying something new, scale it down to a gallon and you’ll use less ingredients, energy, water, and time! If it works, go big! If it flops, you won’t feel as bad as you would with a bigger batch. 3. Kegger You have probably figured out that reusing the bottles from your craft beer adventures rather than buying new ones saves both money and resources.  Go above and beyond by choosing fully reusable swing tops or better yet, cut back on disposable packaging entirely by learning to keg! 4. Yeast Starters aren’t just for sourdough. Whip up a starter from the tube you get at the homebrew shop and save a bit to reuse for future brew days. Already pitched your yeast? Wash and save the yeast cake to use in future batches. And remember to swap starters with your new homebrew club friends for variety.  5. Hops If you’re buying hops, try to stick to the local stuff (American vs. New Zealand – unless you’re in New Zealand). If you have any outdoor space, grow your own! Hops are incredibly easy to grow and you can buy rhizomes (the root you’ll need to get started) at many homebrew stores. Rhizomes should be planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. You can also try brewing a gruit (style that doesn’t use hops!) with herbs local to where you live.  6. Water is the new oil. Water is the hot sustainability issue these days so watching it drain into the street for half an hour while you’re cooling your wort is going to weigh pretty heavy on your conscience. If you’re using an immersion chiller, you’ll want to recirculate or capture and reuse the water for gardening. You could also pick up a pump  and circulate ice water for a faster chill. Going further, you can invest in a plate chiller and cool your wort like commercial breweries do. Plate chillers run your wort through cool stainless/brass plates, allowing for tons of surface area contact and very quick chilling. While pricey, they can chill your wort from 200+ degrees down to a 70-degree pitching temperature in 5 minutes, which will save a ton of water when compared to the immersion chiller method.  7. Spent Grain Clean up time. You’ve got a bucket of spent grains and you want to do something more than simply throw it in the composter. If you’re a homesteader, your chickens will love this snack.  Or perhaps you’d like to make Spot feel better about being ignored while you brew with some addictive dog cookies. You’ll have to admit they smell good, so why not make a few treats for yourself. Inna Volynskaya is a San Francisco Bay Area-based sustainable beer enthusiast, Operations wizard at Community Grains, and MBA candidate at Presidio Graduate School. Photo: Some rights reserved by stepa
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