Beer has always been such a lovely drink. But have you ever considered the thought, “Is brewing beer bad for the environment?”
The short answer is yes, just like any other company whose process creates waste.
Of course, companies can mitigate this damage through research and implementation.
Continue reading to learn more about how making beer can harm the earth.
Brewing Beer and The Environment
Making beer uses a ton of water and electricity, which can hurt the environment.
Also, the process of making beer creates wastes like wastewater, solid waste, and byproducts, as well as CO2 emissions that significantly pollute the environment.
But brewers and breweries can do much to make this less of a problem.
Most modern breweries have implemented extensive measures to reduce their environmental impact significantly.
The most critical environmental problems that come up when breweries are running are:
- Water Consumed
- Waste from solids and byproducts
- Energy usage
- Air emissions
Related Reading: Use An Electric Brewer – Read About It Here.
Brewers use water for four main tasks: cleaning, making steam, malting, and cooling.
Not surprisingly, water is the most important raw material used in brewing.
Depending on the size of the brewery, the average amount of water used is between 3 and 4 million gallons per year.
As breweries get bigger, they need more water, which they usually get from nearby sources that may be limited or dirty.
Some breweries buy purified water bulk from commercial suppliers or dig their wells to ensure enough water.
90–95% of beer is water, so it takes four to seven gallons to make one gallon.
Some of the most water-intensive parts of making beer are making the beer mash, cleaning the brewing equipment and beer bottles, and keeping the brewing equipment cool.
A misconception is that brewing beer harms the environment because it uses more water than wine or alcohol.
But it’s not that bad, which is a surprise.
One liter of beer needs 4 liters of water to make.
This may seem like a lot, but it still uses less water than wine or hard alcohol.
To make one liter of wine, you need at least 4.74 liters of water, but to make one liter of hard alcohol, you need 34.55 liters of water.
A 12-ounce bottle of beer takes about 2 gallons (8 liters) of water to make.
Since most people drink more than one bottle at a time, this dramatically affects the world’s water supply.
They make wastewater when breweries clean their equipment, utensils, and fermentation tanks.
This wastewater has phosphates from yeast, nitrates from hops, and sulfates.
About 10–30% of the water used by a brewery is used to clean up the process of making beer.
Breweries make wastewater that is a mix of water and beer.
This wastewater can also contain unfermented sugars, yeast, and grains used during brewing.
Both big and small breweries make wastewater that could be bad for the environment.
For example, A significant brewery produces 7–10 liters of effluent (wastewater) for every gallon of beer.
In comparison, a craft brewery makes about 3 gallons of wastewater for every gallon of beer it makes.
You’re underestimating how much that is.
Even though making beer is natural and based on time and natural ingredients, it is still not good for the environment.
During the operation phase, breweries cause environmental damage through water, wastewater, solid waste and byproducts, energy use, and air emissions.
Breweries make two kinds of solid waste: organic waste, like spent grains, that they can compost, and inorganic waste, like non-recyclable food packaging and glass bottles.
Breweries discard unused hops, malt extract syrup, grain scraps used to clean equipment, and beer filters and storage containers.
Then, these things are often left outside in piles, which can let off methane gas into the air or wash into waterways.
Related Reading: Best Water For Brewing Beer – Learn About It Here.
Refrigeration uses 30–40% of the electricity, other parts use 10–30%, and utilities use 15–20%.
When carbon filters are used in breweries, reducing carbon dioxide emissions will use up 6.5% of the electricity.
Beer brewing is a highly energy-intensive process.
Electricity is used in the malting, fermentation, bottling, cooling, shipping, and other steps of making beer.
Making your beer can save you money in the long term, even though it requires a lot of energy.
A craft brewery will use between 50 and 66 kWh to make one beer barrel.
Depending on the ingredients and amount of alcohol, the price per barrel is usually between $5 and $6.60.
As for total energy consumption, it’s hard to say which is better for the environment.
It still depends on how much beer you drink in a year.
Breweries also pollute the air because they burn fossil fuels to make heat for boiling wort and power refrigeration units.
But making beer, including fermentation, bottling, and storing it, puts a lot of pollution into the air.
Much carbon dioxide is produced by malting and fermentation, and carbon dioxide is also needed for preservation.
When you malt the grain and ferment the beer, you get alcohol and carbon dioxide, a gas that warms the earth.
Carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct of yeast in beer. It is made when the yeast ferments.
Because CO2 is released into the air during the brewing process, this can cause CO2 levels to rise.
However, carbon dioxide doesn’t come out of the air from all breweries. Some people can catch it to keep beer fresh.
A 10-bbl batch of average-strength beer will give off about 48 kg (848 cubic feet) of carbon dioxide (CO2), approximately the same as a refrigerator.
Related Reading: All About Beer Alcohol Percentages – Check Them out Here
Like other companies, brewing beer is commonly detrimental to the environment.
That being said, companies are also developing ways to significantly reduce or even eliminate the damage they do to the world.