Think globally; drink locally.
Credit: National Acrobat

October is the annual month of beer celebration, and there is no better way to celebrate it than by knocking a few back with good friends. 

Out of all the environmental concerns there are in the world, beer is usually not one of them. Those who imbibe often don't usually know much about the beer-making process. Beer is a fairly natural product, made from fresh water and natural ingredients like wheat, barley and hops. Nothing harmful there at first glance… Or is there?

Think Globally, Drink Locally

One of the biggest environmental harms that results from beer is how it is shipped. Big brewing companies ship beer all over the world, and while they sometimes attempt to offset this by being eco-friendly in other ways, those greenhouse gas emissions still add up.

For a more environmentally friendly beer, look locally. Microbrewing is an ever growing industry and it is popping up in even the smallest of towns. Bars are helping out local businesses and the environment alike by serving up locally brewed beers. So do the earth a favour and order yourself a tasty microbrew.

Opt For Recycled Materials

While drinking locally brewed beers cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions, it is not completely without harm, especially if the brewer is being wasteful with packaging. Anheuser Busch or Miller Coors have made the switch to recycled materials. This is not only environmentally friendly – it is also economically feasible. So when you recycle a can or a bottle for money, you are saving brewers money, as it’s cheaper for the brewer to use recycled stock than to make new ones.

Greener Beer Making Fuel

Brewing lets out gases during the fermentation, and whereas they aren't particularly harmful for the environment, the fuel used to cook and power the beer manufacturing plant can be. Some brewers are making the switch to eco-friendly power sources to make a greener beer, such as the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, which uses solar power. 

A Pint Of Pesticides, Anyone? 

If you found out that your brew of choice was using barley, hops or wheat in your beer that was frequently sprayed with bleach, would you still want to sink that cold one? No. So why settle for a beer with ingredients that have been sprayed frequently with pesticides, fungicides and herbicides?

When shopping for an eco-friendly beer, you need to do your research on the quality of the ingredients. Find a beer that uses organically grown ingredients and compare it to a pesticide beer – you will notice a big difference.

What About the Water?

 The irony of beer is that it takes fresh clean water to brew and it takes fresh clean water to get rid of that hangover the next morning. It is a double whammy on the water supply. That’s why it’s important for brewers to make the commitment to use water efficiently by rainwater harvesting, reducing water use and limiting evaporation.

So, What Are The Eco-Friendly Alternatives?

Now that you know a little more about the beer making process and the potential environmental pitfalls, you probably find yourself a little overwhelmed. There are so many ways a brewer can harm the environment, but is there a beer out there that has made the full commitment not to do so?

The answer is yes.

Toronto’s Steam Whistle Brewing Company has made a full commitment to brew the most delicious beer with the least impact on the environment. The plant operates on solar power, and the company uses recycled packaging materials and as much of its waste as possible. 

There are also numerous breweries in British Columbia that have made a commitment to churn out  organic and eco-friendly brews, including Pacific Western Brewing, Crannog Ales and the Nelson Brewing Company.