As St. Patrick's Day approaches, many bars are readying kegs of Irish brews and droppers of food coloring for a holiday special: green beer. Typically, this veridian beverage is reserved for March 17th when people around the world gather together to pretend they are Irish and take part in potentially damaging stereotypes of the Emerald Isle. But it doesn't have to be that way! Thanks to a wave of sustainability sweeping companies around the globe, many domestic and craft breweries alike are examining their practices and opting for more Earth-friendly measures. That's right. Thanks to a few select breweries, you can now have a "green" beer that will delight your palate this St. Patrick's Day and beyond. No food coloring required.
Domestic and Imported Staples
Stand down craft beer enthusiasts, your time is coming. For those of us who enjoy simple, reliable pleasures in life, some tried-and-true favorites are here to make the Earth a better place and wet our whistles at the same time. Many of these classics are your party beers, your "toss them in the cooler" beers. Your old friends.
Believe it or not, Coors is credited as the first beer to be packaged in recyclable aluminum cans. The MillerCoors company founder, Bill Coors, pioneered the recyclable packaging in 1949. Currently, the company still claims to reuse or recycle "almost 100 percent" of brewery waste.
"Wait, MillerCoors? But that must mean ..." yes, friends, you can enjoy Miller, Miller Lite and any of the rest of the various Miller family relatively guilt-free. In addition to "having recycling in their DNA," The MillerCoors company is also committed to seeing all of their major manufacturing plants become zero waste by 2025.
No doubt you’ve spotted this new take on an old favorite as you shopped for your weekly groceries. I certainly have. Michelob Ultra Gold is just like the lightly beer-flavored sparkling water you’re used to but made from organic grains with no artificial flavors. Additionally, the brand's packaging has received the Sustainable Forestry Initiative approval. Pour me a glass!
Second only to Corona Extra, Heineken is one of the most popular imported beers in America. In a plan called "Brewing a Better Future," Heineken has set an ambitious goal to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2020.
If you're a craft brew die-hard and you've made it through the Michelob Ultra Pure Gold bit, I congratulate you. Let me tell you about some craft breweries that you can be especially proud of supporting. There are a lot of breweries out there doing amazing things for the Earth, but we picked larger ones that you're likely to find at your local grocery or liquor store.
Located in Kansas, Missouri, Boulevard Brewing Company is serious about sustainability. Not only have they been a zero landfill company since 2011, but they also package their beers in boxes made of 70% post-consumer recycled paper. As if that weren't enough, Boulevard addressed Kansas' extreme lack of recycling facilities by creating one of their own, Ripple Glass, that has recycled almost 1 billion Boulevard beer bottles and has collection points all over the city.
With the motto of "Save the Earth, One Beer at a Time," Magic Hat is an eco-friendly force to be reckoned with. In 2010, the brewery installed a digester that converts wastewater, grain, and other beer-making byproducts into energy. This innovation was the first of its kind in the brewing world (and the world in general). Based in Vermont, Magic Hat uses the frigid winter temperatures of its home state to supplement its coolers and save on energy.
"We're New Belgium and we pollute. There. We said it, we are not perfect and we know it." With its original home base in Fort Collins, Colorado, New Belgium Brewing Company tackles the sustainability issues surrounding beer making with delightful self-awareness. Focusing on energy conservation, waste reduction, shrinking their carbon footprint and even natural resource management, New Belgium Brewing Company has a robust plan of action for saving the Earth. Which will make that Fat Tire Amber Ale go down just that much smoother.
Based in Chico, California, Sierra Nevada is now the sixth-largest brewery in the United States. It's also a leader in sustainability with a Platinum LEED-Certified brewing facility in Mills River, North Carolina. At the Chico location, 10,000 solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells provide 60 percent of the energy used in the brewery. Both facilities recycle 99 percent of solid waste produced.
Located in Jeaneau, Alaska, the Alaskan Brewing Company aims to have a zero net negative impact on the environment - meaning that they reduce as much waste and emissions as they produce each year. Their secret lies in a series of innovations they call "Beer Powered Beer," a system that prevents one million pounds of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere and saves 2 million gallons of water. Annually.
These companies are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sustainable beer - there are many, many more breweries out there dedicated to providing you with a delicious, cold beverage and actively making the world a better place. So, why not try them all? Cheers to green beer all year!