One of my lovely readers requested a post on choosing eco friendly beer, and I like nothing more than to provide helpful information – so here we have it! Beer has always been my go-to alcoholic drink of choice (in moderation of course!), so I have done my research over the years, making this definitely a topic I’m happy to talk about! If you have any other topics you’d like me to research for you just let me know!
Much of the environmental impact of beer comes from its refrigeration, transport and the glass it is stored in. In fact, the most eco friendly way to consume beer is straight from the keg (particularly if you walk or ride to the pub!), but today I wanted to more focus on what to look for with regards to beer to drink at home!
One of the great things that has happened with the establishment of the craft beer scene here in Australia is that a large proportion of these beers are preservative free. Whilst avoiding preservatives is not specifically an environmental issue, it is still an indicator of where the values of the brewer lies. Most beers that are preservative free proudly state this on their labels (sometimes just on the boxes rather than each individual beer), but otherwise just check their ingredients list and look out for sulphites or anything numbered in the 220s.
Local Is Best
One of the biggest eco impacts of beer is the transport related emissions (also known as food miles), with beer in glass being worse than beer in cans due to the weight. One way to reduce these impacts is to choose beer that is brewed as close to home as possible, which thankfully is getting easier and easier these days with small scale breweries popping up all over the place, from country towns to suburbs of cities. Do be aware though that sometimes just because a beer is named after a location it may not have ever actually been brewed there, or it may have started there but is now brewed elsewhere (potentially even overseas). I think the most local example I’ve ever seen was kegs of Mountain Goat beer being rolled out of their original brewery in Richmond into the pub across the road – hard to beat that!
It’s not just the location of the brewing that matters either, you also want to choose a beer that uses locally sourced ingredients as this not only reduces the food miles of these products but provides support to local farmers and results in fresher products as well. Some breweries use certified organic ingredients in their brewing process, so keep an eye out for that on their labels too.
Recycled and Recycling
Some breweries now sell their beer in recycled bottles which cuts down on the environmental impacts of the brewery process significantly. As I mentioned previously, beer in aluminium cans have less of an environmental impact from a transport point of view due to them being lighter and using space more efficiently. Whilst aluminium takes more energy to produce than glass you need much less material to make a can than a bottle and are more easily recycled, so it might be time for us to embrace beer in the can!
Whatever way you consume your beer it is important that all the empties go into your recycling bin, including the tops for your beer bottles, so that they can be reused in some form or another!
Certified Carbon Neutral or Renewable Energy Use
A number of breweries in Australia have taken great steps to make their beer more eco friendly, including through the purchasing of carbon offsets, and in some cases even being able to become certified carbon neutral. The Coopers Brewery in South Australia has installed a cogeneration plant which has resulted in a huge reduction in emissions for all their beers, and Mountain Goat have installed solar panels, rainwater harvesting and a wastewater treatment plant, all of which combine to making their beer much more eco friendly. Little Creatures is another brewery that has set in place eco initiatives, including waste water treatment on site. If you’re not sure whether your favourite beer is taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint then the best option is just to ask them!
Some of my favourites
I like to mix things up with my beer drinking as there are so many delicious options popping up left, right and centre these days, but here are a few eco friendly beer options you could start off with:
- Coopers (South Australia)
- Mountain Goat (Victoria) – particularly their certified organic steam ale
- Barossa Valley Organic Ale (South Australia)
- Stone & Wood (Byron Bay)
- Fat Yak (Victoria)
- Young Henrys (New South Wales)
- Little Creatures (Western Australia and Victoria)
- Murray’s Whale Ale (New South Wales)
Brew Your Own!
Of course one very eco friendly option is to brew your own beer! You can do this in your garage, or try something like I did with my dad earlier this year and visit somewhere that lets you use their facilities to do your brewing. Not only do you get to control exactly what goes in your beer but you can take back the same bottles time and time again to significantly cut down on the environmental footprint of your beer. It also means that the only travel associated with the brewing will be the trip from your place to the brewery and back!