Thursday, August 30, 2007

Beyond Organic: New Belgium's Sustainable Brewing

I was in a Red Sox bar, Fat Face Fenners's Fishack, in Los Angeles recently and asked about a beer on tap I'd never seen before, Fat Tire. I asked our waitress, "I've never seen that beer with the bicycle on the tap before, what's that like?"

"Umm, that's Fat Tire," she said.

Right name, lousy description. "Yes, what's it like?" I asked.

"Umm, it's brewed in Colorado," she continued, skillfully avoiding anything that might give away what the beer actually tasted like. "It's good."

With the possibility remaining open that Fat Tire could taste like anything from sewer rat to pumpkin pie, I just ordered whatever light beer was on draft.

But days later, I caught a mention of the beer in Outside Magazine's green issue. Turns out the brewery that makes Fat Tire Amber Ale, New Belgium Brewing, might be the greenest brewery in the country.

While New Belgium only brews one organic beer, Mothership Wit, it uses sustainable practices from the start of its brewing process (using far less water than most breweries) to the finish (using bottles made out of recycled glass and shipping on biodiesel trucks).

Here are some excerpts from New Belgium's other green efforts:

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction: In 1998, New Belgium took an employee vote and became the country's first brewery to subscribe to wind energy. ... Employee owners voted to dip into their bonus pool to help finance the conversion.

Healthy Watersheds: Through recapture and reuse, New Belgium uses less than four barrels of water to produce one barrel of beer, significantly less than the industry average.

Green Building: In 2002 we agreed to participate in the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) pilot program. From sun tubes and daylighting throughout the facility to reusing heat in the brewhouse, we continue to search out new ways to close loops and conserve resources.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The three "R's" of being an environmental steward. Our reuse program includes heat for the brewing process, cleaning chemicals, water and much more. Recycling at New Belgium takes on many forms, from turning "waste" products into something new and useful (like spent grain to cattle feed), to supporting the recycling market in creative ways (like turning our keg caps into table surfaces). We also buy recycled whenever we can, from paper to office furniture. Reduction surrounds us, from motion sensors on the lights throughout the building to induction fans that pull in cool winter air to chill our beers. Offsetting our energy needs is the cornerstone to being environmentally efficient.

Living Sustainably: Having our own Sustainability Specialist, Nic Thiesen, has given us access to all sorts of great information. If you want to learn more about any of the programs to which New Belgium subscribes or maybe you’d like to have wind power at your home, check out these links.

Not that I don't love Wolaver's organic beer, but all that seems to blow Wolaver's sustainability page out of the water, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, New Belgium isn't sold east of the Mississippi. It's not even available at DC's vaunted Brickskeller, home to 300 or so beers. But if you're traveling out west (or God forbid someone out west has stumbled upon this blog) give it a try!


Anonymous said...

maybe i missed it in the blog... so was it good? what's the mile's take on the taste of fat tire?

The Green Miles said...

Didn't get it, remember? "I just ordered whatever light beer was on draft." If she had just said, "It's an amber ale," I would've tried it, but without knowning what it was like, I didn't want to take a chance on it being an IPA or a really hoppy ale, not a big fan of those, so I played it safe.

Unknown said...

Oh wow, I didn't realize how green New Belgium was!!! One of my favorite beers, Fat Tire. I love going out west so that I can get some. I have on occasion brought a case back to the east with me. Too bad you didn't give it a try!

Anonymous said...

lol... ok, upon re-reading it... NOW I GET IT! i used to be a blonde, you must know this! one bad beer won't kill you:) in fact, it might help you. it might turn you off to alcohol altogether! lol.

i think it's so funny how i can imagine you having a "duh, moron!" look on your face, especially since i have never met you in person!

CRS said...

I just stumbled upon this page via google, and I hope in the time since you wrote it you've gotten a chance to try Fat Tire. It is a wonderful beer, full and bright, with an excellent finish. I don't taste beer for a hobby so my descriptors might be off. I do however encourage anyone who hasn't to try this beer. New Belgium's brewing practices attest to the quality of their product.

The Green Miles said...

Yes, I finally did get a Fat Tire last fall! Loved it. Maybe one of these days it'll make it out to DC ...

kimmi long said...

so i blackled "greenest brewery" and your blog came up...and i'm in san diego (so someone out west HAS discovered your blog - maybe i'm not the first anyway?!?)

i like your blog, will continue to follow. entertain me!


Unknown said...

Greatest Brewery Ever! If you ever do come out here to beautiful Fort Collins, CO, you should visit New Belgium and take one of the tours there.

TheGreenMiles said...

New Belgium is finally east of the Mississippi ... but alas, remains south of Virginia: