Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Solar-Powered Beer: Greener Than Organic?

I stopped by the vaunted Wall of Beer at Westover Market over the weekend to stock up the fridge. One of the six-packs I grabbed was the Winter Solstice Ale from California's Anderson Valley Brewing.

It wasn't until I got it off the rack that I noticed a little sun on the cap reading "
Solar Powered Brewery":
(February 6, 2006 - Boonville CA) After a final inspection by PG&E, we were at last able to put the finishing touch on our $860,000 state-of-the-art photovoltaic project - Throwing the switch and making our own juice (the electric kind). Yep! We're finally up and running, and those 768 beautiful solar panels (almost 12,160 square feet of them) are creating enough juice to cut the brewery's entire electrical bill almost in half! Now whenever you savor a Boonville Beer, you can savor the fact that you're drinking a solar powered beer and helping protect the environment.
Treehugger said it best: "We don't need another reason to feel good while drinking beer, but we approve of this project nonetheless."

What's the most environmentally-friendly type of beer? Let's quickly review three basic categories:

  • Local -- Beer that didn't guzzle gas in a truck before it arrived in your 'hood so you could guzzle it out of your mug. Examples (for DC residents): Dominion (brewed in Ashburn, VA), Shenandoah (brewed in Alexandria, VA).

  • Low-Carbon -- Breweries that reduce their carbon footprints through steps like renewable energy and green buildings. Examples: Anderson Valley, New Belgium.

  • Organic -- Beer brewed with hops and malt grown without the use of chemicals or genetic modification. Examples: Wolaver, Peak.
So which is the best? I don't mean this to sound like a dodge (because, let's face it, it is), but if you're drinking a beer that fits into any of the three categories above, you're ahead of 99% of your fellow beer drinkers, minimizing the environmental impact of your night out. Have another one for me.

One last thing to keep in mind -- if you're out and about, draft beer is generally greener than bottled beer. While pint glasses and kegs get re-used, most bars and restaurants don't recycle bottles (or anything else, for that matter).
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