Saturday marks America’s 79th National Beer Day. The unofficial tradition dates back to 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt legalized the sale of beer (with 4.0% abv or less) after 13 beerless years of Prohibition. That year, Americans across the country waited outside bars and breweries for the stroke of midnight on April 7th to once again purchase the legalized libation.
In honor of National Beer Day, here are some interesting ways breweries and beers are working towards environmental and social change:
1. Cassava Beer: SABMiller is using an abundant, yet commercially unsuccessful root from Mozambique to make beer, sourcing from 1,500 local farmers in low-income areas. The root, cassava, is grown in large quantities in the region, but because it begins to rot and needs to be used within 24 hours of harvesting, it has not been commercially successful and farmers are often left with unpurchased crops. By producing the first commercial beer made of cassava, SABMiller is supporting local farmers and cutting down on its carbon footprint, as the brewery imports 75% of the ingredients in their regular beers. In addition, cassava beer can be sold at a 30% discount to regular beers in local markets.
2. Reusing Spent: According to Zero Waste Institute, 92% of the ingredients used for brewing beer ends up as waste. Anheuser-Busch wants to change that waste stream into a resource. Working with Blue Marble Biomaterials, they are looking to use bacteria to turn spent from the brewing process into biogas and chemicals, which can then be used to produce a wide array of end products, from electricity to food additives.
3. Hospitality Microloans: Samuel Adams has teamed up with ACCION USA in Brewing The American Dream to provide microloans to hospitality and microbrewery entrepreneurs. The program has been around for four years, and with almost $1MM distributed through loans of $500 to $25,000, it has a 2.3% default rate -- lower than that of the government’s Small Business Administration Loan program. In addition, Sam Adams employees give free seminars and mentoring for these business owners to ensure they have proper support along the way.
4. Craft Breweries for the Environment: There are many breweries out there using green methods to create their tasty brews, and here are a few highlights:
Sierra Nevada: The brewery relies on solar panels, hydrogen fuel cells, and recovered biogas to generate 80% of its energy, and is targeting 100%. They have programs in place for recycling, CO2 recovery, water conservation, greenhouse gas reduction, and composting. They also use spent vegetable oil from their restaurants as biodiesel and hybrid electric trucks to transport their brews, and encourage employees to commute on bikes. They’ve won the Waste Reduction Awards Program from the state of California every year since 2001. Oh, and here’s an award from the EPA.
New Belgium Brewery: The brewery conducted a study to measure the carbon footprint of a six-pack of their flagship Fat Tire ale, and purchase renewable energy credits to offset some of the emissions. They use wind, solar, and recovered methane gas (from an onsite wastewater treatment facility) to power their plant, which is monitored on a smart grid. In an effort to reduce waste, their new beer, Shift, only comes in cans. On top of all that, they give their employees a bike after one year to encourage green commuting, and have a local biking team.
Brooklyn Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery is the first company in New York City to be entirely powered by wind power at both the brewery and headquarters. It pays local farmers to pick up their waste grains, supporting the local farming economy. And, everyone loves brewmaster Garrett Oliver.
There are many other craft and microbreweries out there that are environmentally conscious and green. The combination of craft beer and sustainability (and flannel) seem to go well together. Check out Full Sail, Maui Brewery, and Odell just to name a few others.
As a nation, we love beer, but we don’t often think about the environmental impact or the social change we can harness from everyone’s love of the beverage. Now, armed with this knowledge of how these breweries are making a difference, go forth and celebrate National Beer Day like it’s 1933 (and don’t forget the flannel).