With over 2,800 breweries in the U.S. and $246.5 billion in profits, the brewing industry has a dynamic influence on the economy. It’s estimated breweries create over 2 million jobs in America. For every single brewery job, 45 more are generated indirectly through agriculture, distribution, transportation, business, machinery, packaging, and retail. Although these stats seem positive, there’s a sinister element that threatens the industry: climate change.
With warmer temperatures and extreme weather, the future of hop production, a critical ingredient in the brewing process, is being endangered. Climate-related droughts and diminished snow pack on the west coast are also affecting the industry. With rising demand caused by the IPA craft beer fad and lower harvests, the cost of hops has been driven up by more than 250 percent over the past decade.
Prominent breweries are now trying to find inventive ways to amalgamate sustainability with their brewery processes. By investing in green energy, water efficacy, waste recollection, and sustainable sourcing, brewing companies are trying to combat the effects of climate change on the industry according to ceres.org.
To emphasize the strides they are making and issue a call to action to others, a group of 24 brewers from across the country signed the Climate Declaration, pledging to brew with sustainability in mind. The breweries included Smuttynose Brewing Company, Guinness, Allagash Brewing Company, Aeronaut Brewing Company, The Alchemist, Aspen Brewing Company, Brewery Vivant, Bouy Beer Company, Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen, Deschutes Brewery, Fort George Brewery and Public House, Fremont Brewing Company, Georgetown Brewing Co., Hopworks Urban Brewery, Ninkasi Brewing Company, Odell Brewing, Rockford Brewing Company, Smuttynose Brewing Company, Snake River Brewing Co., Standing Stone Brewing Co., and Wet Dog Café & Brewery.
New Belgium Brewery has already invested in methane generators and 300 kilowatts of solar at its brewery in Colorado according to The Huffington Post.
Sustainability manager at the Craft Brew Alliance (which owns Redhook, Widmer Brothers, and Kona), Julia Person, said the obligation to addressing their impact has economic benefits as well. The company reduced its greenhouse gas emissions 8 percent in 2014, saving it more than $250,000 in energy costs. It has also cut the amount of water needed to generate a gallon of beer to 3.5 gallons — significantly less than the average of six to eight gallons, Person said.
“It’s good for business, it’s not just good for the environment,” said Person. “We’re lowering our operating costs. It’s doing the right thing and having a benefit.”
How do you expect climate change to affect breweries? Do you work for a brewery which works to minimize their carbon footprint?