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Brew your own beer

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Brewing your own beer cuts down on the wasteful packaging associated with store-bought beer. It also curbs pollution created by long-distance transport of beer, saves fuel, and allows you to choose healthier, eco-friendly organic brewing ingredients.

Find it! Home brewing supplies

Like a painter needs a brush and canvas, a home brewer needs a wort chiller and kegerator. Below is a sampling of the many vendors offering the tools you'll need for home brewing. Basic starter kits are available for those not yet ready to enter the more esoteric realm of conical fermenters and apricot purees. Brew-Monkey.com also offers a thorough listing of suppliers of home-brewing equipment and ingredients.

Information to get you started

Home brewing calls for sufficient physical space. Before you get started, make sure that you have the room available to undertake this new hobby. If you do not have the space available, consider visiting a Brew on Premise (BOP or U-Brew) facility. These establishments offer the use of professional brewing equipment and ingredients and allow you to mimic your favorite commercial beer or create your own recipe under the guidance of seasoned brewmasters. Generally, an appointment is needed to visit a BOP and two visits are necessary: the first to brew and the second to bottle.

To learn how to brew your own beer, check out wikiHow, which offers a basic, step-by-step guide for novice brewers. Or, read The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian, a great book to get you started. To assist the burgeoning eco-conscious brewer, Seven Bridges Cooperative, one of the largest merchants of certified organic beer ingredients, offers water and energy saving tips.

If you'd like additional help, join a local homebrewer association. There are many such organizations, ranging from the SHBF (Swedish Home Brewers Association) to the NTHBA (North Texas Homebrewers Association). These association's allow you to swap recipes and techniques and even compete with fellow enthusiasts. The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) is a nationwide organization with 11,700 members as of October, 2006.

Brewing your own beer helps you go green because…

  • It diminishes your carbon footprint by eliminating the need for highly polluting, fuel-intensive long-distance transport of domestic and imported beers.
  • It cuts back on the cycle of waste produced when purchasing heavily packaged store-bought beers.
  • It allows you to choose exclusively organic ingredients.

In 2006, beer engendered a total worldwide revenue of $294.5. billion[1] Given the worldwide popularity of beer, chief environmental concerns include oil consumption and smog-creating carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emitted during the transportation of beer in long-haul diesel trucks. (Most food products, including beer, travel an average of 1,500 miles before reaching our kitchen tables.)[2] Diesel exhaust contains over 450 chemicals, 40 of them believed to be toxic to humans and detrimental to the environment.[3] Carbon monoxide from vehicle emissions accounts for 56 percent of total carbon emissions nationwide and, along with nitrogen oxide, contributes to air pollution.[4] Beer brewed at home does not have to make the fuel-intensive, polluting journey from factory to fridge.

When not served from the tap, beer is predominately packaged in and consumed from glass bottles and aluminum cans. According to reports published by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2005, 10.9 million tons of glass containers (including beer, juice, soda bottles and other products) were disposed of in the United States; 2.8 million tons were recovered for recycling. Aluminum beer and soft drink cans accounted for 1.4 million tons of waste in 2005; 0.7 million tons were recovered for recycling. Although bottling plays a part in home brewing, it takes place on a much smaller scale, and the bottles can be reused.

Organic home brews

Seven Bridges Cooperative sells ingredients certified as organic by California Certified Organic Farmers, a certifier accredited by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). For beer ingredients to be certified as organic, they must meet criteria set forth by the USDA: the crops must be grown in soil that has been free of toxic pesticides and fertilizers for a minimum of three years and cannot contain genetically modified organisms. In contrast to conventional farming, chemical-free farming methods pose little risk to the environment by reducing soil erosion, pollution, and water scarcity. Organic food products are also gentler on the human body.

Related health issues

Since home brewing allows you to be selective in choosing what ingredients go into your beer, including organically-grown grains and hops, you cut your risk of ingesting pesticide residues found in conventional, mass-produced beers. In 2003, 17 percent of barley and 32 percent of wheat products (often used in beer-making) tested positive for such chemicals. Organic beer tested positive for less than 5 perent.[5] Additionally, organic and craft beer offer higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants—the darker the beer, the higher the levels—than conventional beer. Mass-produced beers opt for cheaper malts such as rice and corn, (versus barley) the result being a lighter-tasting, paler, less nutrient-rich brew.

In general, beer, when not consumed in moderation, poses several health risks including alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver, and various cancers. However, sensible drinking—the American Cancer Society defines this as no more than one drink per day for women and two per day for men—of beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages can be beneficial, as it has been found to decrease the fatal effects of heart disease, lowering the likelihood of death by 30 to 40 percent in comparison to nondrinkers.[6]

Glossary

  • craft beer: Beer made by small, independent breweries, such as microbreweries, brewpubs, and at home, using traditional beer-making methods.
  • genetically modified organism (GMO): The result of merging the genetic makeup of two organisms to create a desired byproduct that could otherwise not be found in nature.
  • hops: A perennial flowering plant—a distant relative of the Cannabis plant—used in flavoring and preserving beer in the brewing process.

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