By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Environmental degradation is underway. This has led to numerous harmful impacts, including water shortages and land pollution. While the issue may seem too big for any one person to make a difference, we as homebrewers can do our part by using green practices when making beer. And there’s an added bonus when you start brewing sustainably: you’ll save money in the long run.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, there’s typically no shortage of water falling out of the sky. That rain, snow or sleet is essentially free. The easiest way to collect this precipitation is by hooking up a rain barrel system to your home’s gutters. Of course, the water that’s collected isn’t going to be good for brewing, however, it is suitable for cleaning or — with the addition of a sump pump — running your heat exchanger. Whether you use an immersion chiller or a plate, you can hook a sump pump to a garden hose and use the rainwater to chill your wort. While that process is underway, use the resulting hot water to clean equipment or just allow it to drain back into your rain barrel and save it for future use. If there’s enough water in the barrel, you won’t be able to heat it to the point that it will impact your chilling power. In summer, the water in the barrel may get too hot, but it can still be utilized for cleaning and watering hop plants.
Collecting rainwater is not the only green thing we can do. The brewing process produces waste that usually gets thrown in the trash, eventually becoming part of a landfill, or washed down the drain. Keep in mind that used hops should be thrown away because they are harmful to dogs when ingested. But spent grain is a different story. There are several baking recipes that put this “waste” to good use — you can create everything from dog biscuits to breads to brownies. Adding spent grain to baked goods can be a fun and interesting way to incorporate leftovers from the brewing process into something fun.
Once you’ve made all of the spent grain cookies you and your friends could possibly consume, the rest can be used in compost. The material will decompose, resulting in a dense mulch-like fertilizer that will allow air to flow around the soil of your plants. This makes for good drainage, which is perfect for hops. Unfortunately, there are proteins in spent grain and the smell can be a little off-putting, but the payoff is definitely worth it. And if your neighbors complain — just tell them you’re saving the planet!
The yeast cake at the bottom of our fermentors may be the most difficult thing to address as far as waste minimization. You can reuse the yeast a few times before it starts to produce bizarre flavors. But once you reach that point, what do you do? Yeast is good for you — it contains B vitamins and protein, but eating a raw yeast cake might be a little funky. Dehydrating the yeast is another option — you can then sprinkle it on food for nutritional benefits.
If you aren’t in a hurry to eat bowls of spent yeast, there’s still another way to reuse that yeast cake that’s inspired by the Aussies. Though the process to make Vegemite now has been industrialized, there is an old-fashioned approach. First, add a cup each of chopped up carrots, celery and onion to a stock pot with enough water to cover the vegetables. Next, add as much yeast as a 5-gallon batch of beer will produce. Turn on the heat and bring the water to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are mashed up to a paste-like consistency (you may need to blend everything together). Be sure to not let the concoction burn by stirring occasionally. Once your homemade Vegemite is done, you can throw a party and serve it on top of spent-grain crackers alongside your homebrew.
Going green doesn’t need to be a huge ordeal and now you know there are several tasty and easy ways to help save the planet.
Chew on This DIPA [AG]
Chew on This DIPA [Extract]
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
A beer drinker doesn’t have to look far to see Deschutes Brewery’s connection to Oregon’s natural resources and the environment: It’s on almost every label the Bend-based company makes, from Mirror Pond Pale Ale to Black Butte Porter.
But its commitment to the environment goes far beyond some artfully done bottles. The most recent example came just a few months ago when Deschutes won the 2015 Oregon Sustainability Award in the Business category, presented at the Northwest Environmental Conference & Tradeshow in Portland. The state-awarded honor intends to “promote and advance the inclusion of sustainable practices in government and the private sector.”
Serena Dietrich, the sustainability project manager at Deschutes, says being mindful of the environment is one of the core values for the brewery. “It is embedded into our culture,” Dietrich says. “From the beginning, our founder Gary Fish has been about doing things right, no matter how hard it may be at the time.”
Of course, being environmentally sensitive was likely much easier back in 1988 — when Deschutes was founded and obviously much smaller — than today, when it ranks as one of the largest breweries in the country.
The biggest sustainability effort Deschutes undertakes is the restoration of a billion gallons of water annually to the eponymous Deschutes River, which is just a short walk from the brewery. Working with the Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC) since 2012, the brewery makes a donation to the organization’s water leasing program, which pays farmers to lease their irrigation water and legally protect that water.
Why is that necessary, and what’s that mean for the river?
“In the spring and summer, water flows are greatly decreased in the river due to irrigation withdrawals. By increasing flows in the Deschutes River through the leasing program, fish habitat is revitalized and water quality is improved,” said Dietrich, who also noted that the water restoration also enhances ecosystems for plants and other animals.
The Deschutes Brewery partnership marks the largest private donation made to the DRC to date. The one billion gallon donation also equates to 14 times more water than the brewery and all of its suppliers use to make beer each year. That includes Deschutes’ pubs and everyone in the brewery’s supply chain (hop and grain growers), according to the DRC website.
The work Deschutes does with the DRC is just part of the company’s sustainability efforts, though. There is, of course, the fact that Deschutes has a sustainability project manager in Dietrich. There is also a sustainability committee that features employees from throughout the company, Dietrich says.
The company also makes contributions to a number of other environmental organizations. In 2015, the list of groups Deschutes contributed to include the Deschutes Land Trust, The Environmental Center, The Freshwater Trust and the Western Environmental Law Center.
Other environmentally-minded efforts at Deschutes include:
— Deschutes attempts to recycle nearly everything it can, from packaging material to kegs.
— About 70 percent of the glass used to make Deschutes’ bottles comes from recycled bottles, which reduces the amount of energy required to make new ones.
— Deschutes pays a company to take its “high-strength beer waste,” which also happens to be rich in nutrients. That waste is used to fertilize farms.
Deschutes also endeavors to put the ingredients it uses to make beer to good use, once they’ve gone through the brewing process. Spent grain and hops are combined and sold as cow feed throughout Oregon, which eliminates processing and reduces waste while providing healthy food for cattle.
Some of that effort is tangible in the Bend brewpub, which has had a working relationship with the Borlen Cattle Company since 1995. The company picks up spent grain and hops for feed and, in exchange, the pub buys beef from Borlen for use in its burgers.
Dietrich says Deschutes’ measures keep approximately 11,000 tons of spent grain out of landfills annually.
Deschutes certainly puts a lot of effort into its environmental practices to keep Central Oregon’s beauty intact for future generations. But Dietrich says the current sustainability efforts are just part of a work in progress.
“Even with all the effort, we continue to learn, assess and grow with our surroundings,” Dietrich says. “Keeping a focus on preserving our environment and community has always been a factor.”
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