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When you choose to buy and imbibe local beer, you not only support the economic livelihood of regional breweries, you also help cut pollution associated with the transport of domestic and imported beers.

Find it! Local beer

Beers brewed and sold regionally are often considered craft beers. Many regional breweries specialize in certain beer styles—ales or lagers, for example—and some offer libations made with organic ingredients. Compiled below is a small taste of regional beer producers whose products are available for purchase at specialty stores, supermarkets, online merchants, and often the breweries themselves.

Midwest

Northeast

Northwest


Southeast

Southwest

Before you buy

To reap the eco-benefits of local beer, you must buy beer that is local to your area. Some brewers that began as small, local companies now ship their product throughout the country. While this benefits the brewer by enhancing their reputation with beer drinkers beyond regional boundaries (not to mention boosting sales), it also diminishes the chief environmental advantage of buying local: reducing the amount of fossil fuels used and subsequent pollution created by long-distance transportation. For example, Sierra Nevada, brewed in Chico, California, is now distributed as far away as Connecticut.

Note also that a brewery's size doesn't necessarily indicate how widely its beer is distributed. While many local brewers are considered microbreweries (a brewery producing less than 15,000 barrels a year) or regional craft breweries, many larger regional breweries (producing between 15,000 and 2 million barrels annually) also keep distribution local. Case in point: Atlanta-based Sweetwater Brewing Company produces 40,000 barrels yearly, but limits distribution to Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida.

Some regional breweries sell "growlers," which are half-gallon or smaller bottles, allowing customers to revisit the brewery for refills. This purchasing style adds the eco-benefit of eliminating the need for packaging.

Choosing local beer helps you go green because…

  • It cuts back on the negative environmental consequences of fossil-fuel-consuming long-haul transportation.
  • Many regional breweries practice environmental stewardship in their day-to-day business practices.

Given the worldwide popularity of beer—in 2006, this popular alcoholic beverage engendered a total worldwide revenue of $294.5 billion—chief environmental concerns are oil consumption and smog-creating carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emitted from 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.)[1] Diesel exhaust contains over 450 chemicals, 40 of them believed to be toxic to humans and detrimental to the environment.[2] Carbon monoxide from vehicle emissions accounts for 56 percent of total carbon emissions nationwide and, along with nitrogen oxide, contributes to air pollution.[2]

Sustainable local brewing practices

As regional breweries expand in popularity, some have pledged to practice environmentally responsible brewing. In 1998, New Belgium Brewery of Fort Collins, Colorado became the first domestic brewery to employ wind power in an effort to minimize their production facility's carbon emissions. Today, 70 percent of the brewery's electricity comes from wind power, and the remaining 30 percent is generated from thermal and electric energy produced from wastewater. New Belgium saves about $2,500 to $3,000 monthly by producing a portion of their energy in-house.[3]

     

Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn, New York runs exclusively on wind power and, in turn, has halted the emission of 335,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 1,500 pounds of sulfur dioxide, and 500 pounds of nitrogen oxide into the environment.[4] Brooklyn Brewery also pays farmers to pick up waste grains not used in the brewing process. The waste, which would otherwise end up in landfills, is used as feed for cattle.

Sierra Nevada also generates power from wastewater and provides spent grains to local dairy cows. In addition, the brewery recycled and reused 391,700 pounds of glass, 384,300 pounds of cardboard, and other materials in 2006. Since 2000, the company has been the annual recipient of the WRAP Award (Waste Reduction Awards Program).

Related health issues

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 non-drinkers.[5]

Glossary

  • craft beer: Beer made by small, independent breweries, such as microbreweries, brewpubs, and at home, using traditional beer-making methods.

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