We have all heard of the drought in California. It’s been all over the news, and realistically the results of the drought are frightening to say the least. There are some business owners who are taking this very seriously and are making a change for the better. Breweries are some of the great innovators that are taking the reins on this new idea. First, a little science is in order.
Beer has four basic ingredients; barley, hops, water, and yeast. Water is the most prominent ingredient, with an industry standard of seven gallons of water to only one gallon of beer. The steps begin with malting a grain, usually barley, though other grains may be used. Next is mashing: this is when the malted or cracked grain goes through a process of being steeped in water for about an hour (oh hey look, water). This forces the enzymes in the grain to break down and release sugars. It then becomes a sweet and sticky liquid known as wort. The wort is then drained and put in to the next stage. The third step is boiling in a completely new tank of water (even more water). This step is just where the hops are added and the whole mixture is boiled for about an hour. Other spices and such can be added at this step. Next is fermentation where the wort is cooled and stored for a few weeks at room temperature or many weeks in very cold temperatures. The yeast is also added before and in between these steps. The yeast during the cooling eats up the sugars in the wort and creates CO2 or carbon dioxide. Finally, bottling is where the beer is put into a bottle and left to age and carbonate so it is no longer flat. This can take a few week to a few months for a normal beer.
Through all these steps, so much water is used up that the normal industry standard is a 7:1 gallon ratio. Now there are some breweries who as I have said recognized this epidemic and are working to reduce their waste more and more. A great example is Seattle’s own Fremont Brewing, who have taken this water crisis very seriously and have taken it upon themselves to reduce waste and are active in helping others reduce waste as well. Water isn’t heated with natural gas but instead steam, and excess liquid is “…filtered into drainage, the grains are captured and donated to feed local cows,” according to the online Yes Magazine.
One brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan Brewery Vivant is trying to reduce their water usage to a three to one ratio of water to beer. In fact in 2013, they used “…approximately a 5:1 ratio of water to beer—about two gallons less than the industry average,” according to Yes Magazine. The brewery was also the very first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified brewery in all of the United States.
The Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado even goes so far as to get five percent of the energy they get through solar panels and the other 95 percent through wind turbines. Their water to beer ratio is at a four to one ratio and their goals are set even higher for energy and waste efficiency. So next time you want to go out and have a beer, try going to Fremont Brewery instead and save some water. Or you could drink seven glasses of water instead!