Here’s an awkward truth for smaller, independent, locally focused brewers: Pint for pint, the beer made in a big brewery—from the industrial plants churning out light lager to the craft category’s biggest players—has less environmental impact than what’s pouring at the local brewpub.
The larger the brewery, the more efficiently it uses ingredients and power, and there are more opportunities for green technologies and processes within the brewery. It’s one of those economies of scale within the brewing industry that can frustrate small operators. However, as environmental responsibility becomes a more pressing concern with both producers and consumers of craft beer, we are seeing sustainability, conservation, and positive environmental practices become more common even at the smallest breweries.
While high-ticket capital improvements such as solar power arrays, water treatment facilities, and carbon dioxide–recapture systems get press releases as green feathers in the caps of breweries across the country, brewing more sustainably doesn’t have to mean years-long projects with six-figure price tags. There are improvements to be made at almost every step of the process. Even if you’ve got a microbrewery making 100 barrels a year, you can find ways not only to lower the environmental and social impact of your business, but also to save money while doing it.