Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cascadian Eco-Beer

So at work today, enjoying the old Seattle Weekly, I came across Aimee Curl's article on eco-friendliness in the coffee industry. Although there weren't too many surprises (guess what, Starbucks doesn't recycle, aaah!) it's always interesting to see product comparisons with respect to greenness. Originally I thought I would just post a more generally Cascadian version of Curl's article, but then I got to thinking...

Coffee isn't the Cascadian, or even Seattle icon that so many claim it to be. Starbuck's may have started here but its popularity has little to do with coffee and much more to do with service and marketing. This is exactly why they went global and have been just as popular everywhere else. They had an effective business model that they perfected in Seattle and that's about it. Sure we like our caffiene fix everyday but were not a bunch of coffee connoisseurs who can determine the country of origin with just one whiff. In fact, if that were the case, I would expect that Starbucks would have done worse around here because people would realize that Starbucks' Grande Mocha is nothing more than the Big Mac of java.

But Beer. Now that's something that Cascadians truly take seriously. It's common knowledge that microbreweries prosper here like shrooms in a cow patty. In fact, the top five states with the most craft breweries are as follows:

1. California 200+
2. Colorado 101
3. Oregon 91
4. Washington 87
5. Michigan 69

And this is good beer too. As I mentioned in a previous post British Columbia dominated the show at the Canadian Brewing Awards. Likewise, California, Washington, and Oregon are first, third, and fifth respectively in most medals won from the American Brewer's World Beer Cup. Even in international competitions Cascadians show their talent. In the 2005 International Brewing Industry Awards the only winners from the entire North American continent all came out of Cascadia (Bridgeport Brewing, Oregon; Rogue's Brewing, Oregon; Sierra Nevada, Northern Cali; and Pacific Western, BC)

So, with inspiration from Aimee Curl and an added PNW twist, I give you the greenest beers in Cascadia!

If there was an award for greenest brew practices (which there sure as hell should be!) it would most certainly go to Anderson Valley Brewing Company. Based in Boonville, Ca, at the heart of the Emerald Triangle, this brewery is so eco-friendly I don't even know where to begin! Let's see, the company really took off in 1999 when they built their new, three-story, state-of-the-art brewhouse . They situated the building so that only one tree had to be removed, and they planted two more in its stead. The new facility boast a fully solar-powered brewing process as well as a three-pond effluent waste water treatment system. This means that water used to brew the beer is also used for heating and chilling beer, cleaning the facilities, and eventually irrigating all 30 acres of the company's property. The brewery also utilizes and supports its local community. All water used by the brewery is taken from wells on their property. The hops are all certified organic and grown in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, after using the grains for brewing they clean it, then donate it to local livestock owners. They estimate that they give away approximately 2000 tons of nutrient grains a year. These efforts have gotten them numerous awards from California's Waste Reduction Awards Program. In fact, AVBC is so environmentally conscious that they recently acquired four shire horses which they use to haul beer to local stores and pubs in the area (fed with the spent brew grains of course!).

Down in Oregon Country the Full Sail Brewing Company, based in Hood River, has gained recognition for its social responsibility. In 1999 after 12 years of brewing and 47 workers the company became an independent, employee-owned company, dividing the company between all workers. Under this ideology the company has been able to implement a number of innovative practices that have helped them reduce their environmental impact. For example, the company runs 4 10-hour work days which saves 20% on water and power consumption. 85% of hops and 95% of barley used in Full Sail Ales are grown in the Northwest and through various minor fixes they have reduced their water consumption to only 3.45 gallons of water for every gallon of beer (the industry average is between 6 and 8).

While nothing to date can compete with Anderson Valley, Olympia, Washington's Fish Brewing Company has been giving back to the environment since 2002. As their name suggests they try to promote the protection and rehabilitation of salmon habitat's throughout Cascadia. Their three main beers, amber, Pale, and IPA are all certified Organic. Their signature beer the Wild Salmon Pale Ale uses hops from a Yakima, Washington farm which was the first farm to producecomercially organic hops in the United States. A portion of the proceeds from this beer also goes towards salmon restoration and watershed protection. I also must mention the fact that all six-packs of Fish beer contain the proclamation, Brewed in the Republic ofCascadia. You gotta love that!

Of course, lets not leave BC out of this! Crannog's Ales has the dubious title of Canada's only certified organic farm brewery. Crannog's is similar to Anderson Valley, but on a smaller scale. They brew on a 10-acre farm which feeds and sustains the brewers as well as contributes to the brewing process. They also use water from their own wells and reuse grains for livestock feed. They claim to have created a harmonized, zero-waste system. While the brewery pledges to only deliver beer within driving range of the brewery this makes it difficult to secure outside of British Columbia. Nonetheless they deserve credit for standing behind their beliefs.

Juneau's Alaskan Brewing Company is also a committed green brewery. It is their goal to have a zero-net impact on the environment. To this end, in 1998 they were the first craft brewer in the country to install a carbon dioxide recovery system, which captures and reuses the greenhouse gas naturally produced in the fermentation process. Of course, they acknowledge that working in the harsh Alaskan environment they cannot be quite as eco-friendly as other places. Thus, they have pledged a portion of their proceeds to promote the health of the Pacific Ocean via their coastal CODE (Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone) Organization. The company has also recieved numerous awards for its outstanding health and saftey practices among its employees, thereby promoting healthy environments externally as well as internally.

While these five microbreweries have shown tremedous leadership in environmentally friendly beer making, their are many Cascadian craft breweries working to make their companies greener. Check out a full list of Activist Brewing Companies here.



isaacada1 said...

My favorite Cascadia beer pub and brew.

It was voted best brew pub in the world twice. The only one to do it ever. Highly recommended!

isaacada1 said...

There's a podcast devoted towards brews in the region.

isaacada1 said...

The province of Yukon also has a brewery.

isaacada1 said...

There's also the newspaper that covers the region

Cascadia Now! said...

Great article.

Made me laugh, though no honorable mention for the beers that are already labeled with 'MadeCascadia?

isaacada1 said...

There's a great theme you can keep going with this.

How about cover Eco-Wineries, Restaurants, organic farms, etc...?

oread the SSA said...

I think it'd be really awesome to see that - posts all about organic farms and farmer's co ops and how Cascadians use their land compared to the rest of the states east of the cascades!