Intelligent Energy

Brewers exploit the energy potential of beer

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Breweries are utilizing biomass leftover from beer production as an energy source.

A Trappist brewery. The grains and wastewater left over from the production of beer can be reclaimed to produce energy.

The process of brewing beer dates back to prehistory – long before the advent of mass production and corporate sustainability initiatives.

Nowadays, brewers are compelled to be environmentally responsible, and are inventing ways to transform spent grains into clean energy.

The Associated Press today published a report examining how different breweries are recovering energy that was previously wasted during and after the brewing process. Here’s an overview of its findings.

  • Vermont’s Magic Hat Brewing Co. has installed a system (more properly known as a Biphase Orbicular Biodigester) to extract leftover barley, hops, wastewater and yeast into an anaerobic methane digester that produces natural gas.
  • Anheuser-Busch is capturing heat that’s generated during the brewing process to de-ice its loading dock during foul weather.
  • Coors’ sells its ethanol byproducts to refineries throughout Colorado.
  • Some European breweries dry biomass for burning, to provide energy and heat that will brew more beer.

I came across some additional examples after a quick Web search, including the installation of biomass heat and power plants to make Scottish and Newcastle’s UK breweries energy self-sufficient. As well as a proposal to exploit the energy potential of brewers’ spent grains in Nigeria.

Could beer brewers set an example for sustainable industry? There's only one way to find out. Prost!

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David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure