Beer Me!

Enviro-Girl loves her some beer–specifically a nice stout or a rich ale.  The darker, the better.  But are her beer choices the best choices for the planet?  Whilst sipping her bottle of Guinness one day, she mused about Beer Miles and wondered how far her beloved Irish stout traveled to reach her lips.  She’s quick to rant about eating locally grown food, but do her drinking habits make her a bit of a hypocrite?

It’s accepted knowledge that most food items travel 1,200 miles to reach your table.  Imported beer travels 24,000 miles!  Whoa!  If Enviro-Girl were to drink a traditional ale from a local brewery, her beer miles would only total 600.  That’s a compelling case to switch brands.

Beer makers tend to be very energy efficient and use sustainable resources because it’s good for their bottom line.  Some American brewers who are notably environmentally friendly include:  Brooklyn Brewery, New Belgium Brewery (Fort Collins, CO–the makers of Fat Tire, a fave of Enviro-Girl’s), The Fish Brewing Co. (Seattle, WA), The Alaskan Brewing Co., St. Arnold Brewnig Co. (Houston, TX), and Coors.  That’s right, Coors is recognized as the “greenest” corporate brewer.

Enviro Girl thinks it’s pretty great how craft breweries are becoming common again.  Decades ago, each town had their local brewer.  That trend is returning and with it, a commitment to local economies, great products and unique tastes.  She finds most locally owned restaurants and bars serve up local brews on tap and out of their coolers, another boost for local entrepreneurs.  Keeping business local is good for the environment and good for everybody’s cash flow.

Okay, so it’s a greener choice to drink a local brew, so Enviro-Girl will switch to Fat Squirrel Ale made in New Glarus,  Wisconsin, only 130 miles from her back door.  When Enviro Girl goes out, she’ll drink the local brew (usually Stone Cellar) on tap unless it’s some crappy light beer option, in which case she’ll request a local brew in a bottle.

That begs the next question:  packaging.  Obviously beer from a keg (on tap, draught, etc.) is the best choice.  Kegs are reusable and limit the use of materials.  Returnable bottles are the next best bet, but most microbrews don’t come in returnable bottles.  Which is the worst option, bottle or can?  It costs more to ship a bottle because of the weight, but glass is fully recyclable, aluminum isn’t.  Enviro-Girl calls it a draw, preferring a bottle herself.

The most environmentally responsible way to drink beer?  A locally brewed concoction from a keg in a glass that you can wash and reuse.  Hmmm…perhaps Enviro-Girl should convert that fridge in the garage to house a keg of Fat Squirrel Ale …  Oh, and of course, always have a designated driver when you drink.

To find a brewer near you, check out Beer Me!

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