Locally Brewed’s the Greenest Beer

enviro girlEnviro-Girl loves her some beer–specifically a nice stout or a rich ale.  The darker, the better.  As an eco-warrior, she’s asked herself what beer choices the best choices for the planet?  While lads and lassies sipped their Guinness and green Bud Light over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, she mused about Beer Miles and wondered how far her drink 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 3,700 miles and further!  Whoa!  If Enviro-Girl were to drink a traditional ale from a local brewery, her beer miles could only total 15 miles.  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.  But as two companies dominate almost 90% of beer sales, it’s encouraging to note that craft brews now make up 6% of all beer sales.  Enviro Girl’s a big fan of supporting the locally owned and operated businesses, and to her mind, her drinking habits should be no exception.  She doesn’t patronize Applebee’s or other chain restaurants, and when she does head to Shenanigan’s or Stone Cellar Brew Pub, she asks the bartender to pour her a glass of something brewed in her hometown.

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 better for the environment and good for everybody’s cash flow.  (Be mindful of the “craft beer” designation, however.  As this map illustrates, those 2 big powerhouse brewers dominating 90% of the market sell a number of brands that look more “micro” than they actually are–like Blue Moon, Goose Island and Redbridge.)

Okay, so it’s a greener choice to drink a local brew, so when she’s at the grocery store Enviro-Girl buys Fat Squirrel Ale made in New Glarus, Wisconsin, only 151 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.  When Enviro Girl travels, she enjoys tasting the unique beers crafted in other parts of the world.

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 and the beer is poured into glasses, which get washed and reused.  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!

Tell the Eco Women:  what’s your local brew of choice?


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