It’s finally the one time of year when cabbage becomes an acceptable food group and stores at last see fit to serve us up some good ol’ fashioned corned beef. I will never really understand why we can’t readily eat it year ‘round, but then, I suppose that’s why I’m not in charge of the beef industry. But, I drift. The point of this article is not, in fact, leafy greens, potatoes, leprechauns, stashes of gold or even corned beef. It is rather, my offerings on how to make your green beer really green this year.
We’re pretty well trained how to color up our March 17th beverages a deliciously “appetizing” shade of green, but what’s much more exciting lately is the attempt of more and more breweries to offers us a truly green beer, meaning all sorts of good things. We can now find beer that has been fermented in an environmentally friendly environment and in an eco-friendly manner and beer created with green ingredients like locally grown, chemical-free, pesticide-free organic barley and hops. We can choose beers only made in lightweight bottles. Better still, we have the option to purchase beer only distributed by keg, and for our best option: some of us can even track down kegs that were brewed and distributed locally only. Any way you want to look at it, a truly green, green beer would be the perfect accompaniment to your festivities this week.
Here’s some top picks by brewery:
- New Belgium Brewery – First company to power with wind, and back in 1999, when it wasn’t nearly as trendy as it is now but just as costly. A 10 year renewable wind energy contract enabled them to save 8 million pounds of coal and cut 15 million pounds of CO2 that would have been produced. They also heat and generate electricity for the brewery using methane they produce in their water treatment processes. They use solar lighting for the building and distribute their grain and hop byproducts to local ranchers to feed their cows. Most impressive: they’re working as a partner to create a system that uses their CO2 byproduct to feed a fast-growing form of algae – an algae that produces an oil that can be pressed into biodiesel.
- Goose Island – Green Line Pale Ale – You’ve got to be in the Chicago area to enjoy this one, but wow, these guys are impressive too. Since it’s only available in kegs – this instantly means their beer cuts down on the waste of bottling, packaging and shipping. Handles of kegs are made from locally salvaged pest-killed trees. Glassware is produced within 90 miles of Chicago. The beer is only distributed locally – less resources and less impact for shipping. They intentionally limit their inventory to cut down refrigeration costs since there is less beer to keep chilled at any one time. Every purchased pint of Green Line Pale Ale makes a donation to the Adopt-an-Acre program by the Nature Conservancy. Each pint offers protection for one square foot of Costa Rica rain forest.
- Full Sail Brewing Co. – Employees work four ten-hour days, which cuts down on energy and water consumed. Total water saved relative to other breweries? 3 million gallons. Think about it this way: drinking anything other than Full Sail could be considered simply wasting water.
- Great Lakes Brewing Co. – Masters of the “closed-loop” recycling program: everything typically considered waste is used again, either within the brewery itself or within the community. Extra grains are turned into baked goods. All packaging is 100% recyclable, and distribution trucks run solely off of vegetable oil.
- Alaskan Brewing Company – They capture and reuse their CO2 created during the fermentation process and are dedicated to “reusing at least as much waste and emissions as we produce.” In other words, not only are they re-using their own waste, they’re game for re-using others’ waste top. Now that’s something! Plus, if you buy their India Pale Ale, 1% of the sale goes toward protecting the Pacific Ocean in partnership with CODE (Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone).
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – This facility uses 10,000 solar panels and four co-generation fuel cells to power almost the entire brewing facility. Nothing beats sun-powered beer.
More Tips for Really Green Beer
If you’re not into choosing beer by the brand, then consider these tips to make your beer drinking greener – no food coloring required.
- Go local. Whenever possible, try to get beer from a local brewery. The waste saved on transportation alone will make your beer greener.
- Go for a keg. Kegs are fully re-usable, and the best option for those who plan on drinking more than a bottle. Even though glass and cans are recyclable, recycling does take energy, so a keg has that topped by a long way.
- Go for the tap. You never know if your dive-bar of choice actually recycles, so just choose tap and eliminate the risk.
- Go organic. Organic doesn’t necessarily mean green, but the biggest ingredients in beer: barley and hops, are typically smothered with insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers, none of which are good for the environment.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Enjoy, be safe, and see if you can take the day to be greener in an eco-friendly way, not just with the shamrocks now splashed across your home.