Green beer is local beer

Many of us have been unfortunate enough to try a green beer on Saint Patrick’s Day, but why dye a beer green when you can make it truly green by drinking something more sustainable? Read on to find out more about how to make your St. Patty’s Day beer even greener than the meadows of Ireland.

No matter how rich your stout is, no matter how many hops are in your IPA, beer is still 85-95% water, which weighs over 8 lbs per gallon. Oh, and beer’s packaging doubles that weight, so takes quite a bit of oil to ship all that Guinness just over 3,000 miles from Dublin.

Don’t think I’m just picking on imports. The fantastic Stone Arrogant Bastard travels nearly as far as your Guinness from outside San Diego (around 2,700 miles) to quench your thirst. So no matter how green the brewery may be, and many are incredibly green, transporting beer long distances negates a lot of the good done by the brewery’s sustainable practices.

Plus, transporting beer is one of the best ways to ruin your brew. Light and heat wreck beer by breaking down hop acids to make skunky beer and through oxidation to make beer taste like cardboard. The further it travels, the more opportunities for negative impacts and wrecked beer, so not only is long-distance beer less green, it doesn’t taste as good!

What’s a socially and environmentally responsible beer drinker to do? One of the first and best steps to take is to drink local beer, especially from green-minded brewers.

Thankfully for us, all three of the nearest breweries have excellent environmental policies – Buzzards Bay claims to be “America’s Greenest Brewery” through a variety of initiatives, including being a “no waste” brewery, where all their waste gets reused. In addition, Berkley Brewing uses waste wood to heat their hot water, and Goodfellows may be the only brewery in the region to use hops grown on-site.

To get so green your friends might think you’re the Jolly Green Giant, try growling. Growlers are half-gallon refillable containers that can be brought to local breweries like Buzzards Bay, Mayflower, and Cape Cod Brewing. Refills are usually cheaper than buying bottles, after an initial deposit for the container. Heck, Buzzards Bay offers a 10-pack of growler tickets for $60. Seeing that a growler provides over 5 bottles of beer, that’s just a bit over a dollar a beer.

Growlers harken back to the more sustainable days of yore. Before Prohibition and for a while after Prohibition, nearly all beer was sold in refillable containers. Your parents and grandparents would go down to the local tavern or restaurant to refill containers of beer. Cans and bottles were almost non-existent until soldiers, whose deployment had brought about the popularity of canned beer, started returning from war.

Draft beer still has approximately 68% less environmental impact than bottled beer, according to the Brewers’ Association, so growlers (or drinking at your local watering hole) can make a significant difference.

To be clear: don’t feel guilty about drinking an import or a California brew. I love Stone and Sierra Nevada’s brews and quite a few offerings from their west coast brew brothers. Just think twice before you make your beer choices. The planet, and your fellow humans, will appreciate it.

Beer News

Start your Massachusetts brewery tours with the new Massachusetts Craft Brewers’ Passport! There are over 60 breweries in the program, broken up into 5 regions. Visit all the breweries in a region for a t-shirt, or finish all 5 regions for a commemorative glass (and a free liver replacement*) after visiting all 60 breweries. Learn more at

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Posted March 23, 2014 by natescape in category Beer background, Columns, Featured

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