Written by Logan Broyles
It doesn’t have to be St. Patrick’s Day for a person to get their hands on some “green” beer. Many companies are only recently beginning to jump on the bandwagon for sustainability, but since its inception two decades ago New Belgium Brewing Company has been a leader in the green industry.
Oh yeah, and they make fantastic beer too!
New Belgium Brewing Co. was founded in 1991 by Jeff Lebesch, two years after an inspiring visit to some of Belgium’s best breweries. Jeff began brewing his own beers at his home in Fort Collins, Colorado using re-purposed dairy equipment, and perfected the company’s signature amber ale known as Fat Tire.
With the help of Jeff’s wife Kim, New Belgium Brewing was born. The company has since flourished to become the third largest craft brewery in the US and the seventh largest overall, distributing beer to 29 states in the US.
Culture of Sustainability
From day one Jeff and Kim emphasized sustainability, wanting to build a brewery that reflected their love of quality beer and of the local Colorado Rocky Mountains.
“Sustainability is one of our core values, it affects how we approach our relationships and how we make our beer,” says Jim Spencer, Technical Director for New Belgium. “When you understand the larger impact of technology you think about how to build an operation using the most sustainable practices.”
One of the company’s many green goals is to be entirely powered by wind-generated electricity. Rather than directly using its own equipment, New Belgium is willing to pay higher electricity rates from the City of Fort Collins Utilities to ensure that it is powered by the cleanest source possible.
Sustainability is all about creating cycles so that nothing goes to waste in the production process. To that end, New Belgium’s brewery captures heat that is typically released as steam and uses it to preheat incoming water.
New Belgium also employs a unique generator that captures the methane gas that is a byproduct of the company’s on-site water treatment plant and uses it to create enough electricity to cover about 10 percent of the breweries power needs.
“We try to be as efficient as possible with every step of our brewing process,” says Spencer. “Brewing is very energy intensive, you have to boil water and then cool it all the way back down to a little below freezing so that it is stored cold so you have this huge swing in energy. We try to find ways to recover that energy as much as possible by using cold water to cool the hot beer, which then preheats that water to be used later in the process.”