It's that one day of the year when sane people drink beer with drops of green food coloring in it. If you want to drink a green beer this St. Patrick's Day look at the label and not the color of the beer.
Some of the best beers in America can be as dark as your favorite Irish stout or clear as your favorite pale ale...without the food coloring.
These beers — from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Heartland to the Arctic — come from breweries that embrace environmental principals by either using organic ingredients or by reducing water consumption.
What better place to start our green beer tour than in New York where the first ever St Patrick's Day parade was held in 1762. New York is also home to Brooklyn Brewery, the largest exporter of American craft beer. The East Coast Warehouse that holds Brooklyn beer for export has solar panels on the roof that provide about 33 percent of total power needs. Brooklyn Brewery is also a leader in wind generated power and was the first New York City company to use 100 percent wind-generated electricity. It is estimated that Brooklyn Brewery saves more than 300,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions through their wind program.
Central Waters Brewing
When you take a sip of a Central Waters Brewing beer you are drinking a beer brewed using solar heated water. The Amherst, Wis., brewery was the first in the state to institute a solar-hot water system and radiant floor heating. The system is estimated to save approximately $1.5 million in energy costs over its lifetime and produces about 20 percent of its annual energy needs. Central Waters Brewing's commitment to the environment includes purchasing locally sourced barley for its line of beers.
It should come as no surprise that the beer capital of America — Milwaukee — is also home to the first certified organic brewery in the country in 1996. Lakefront Brewery's first organic brew, the best-selling "Organic ESB (Extra Special Bitter)” is still made with 100 percent organic malt and hops. In 2007, Lakefront Brewery became the first brewery in the state and the first business in Milwaukee to receive the Travel Green Wisconsin certification. The program recognizes tourism-related businesses that reduce their environmental impact through operational and other improvements.
New Belgium Brewery
Approximately 10 percent of Fort Collins, Colorado's New Belgium Brewery’s electric power is derived from methane gas collected from its on-site water treatment plant. The country's third largest craft brewer also uses wind power to address 70 percent of its energy needs with a goal of sourcing all its external energy needs from wind. New Belgium has also set out to reduce CO2e per hectoliter of beer sold by 25 percent by 2015. Even though the Rocky Mountain brewery diverted 99.9 percent of its waste from landfill in 2013 it still endeavors to become a zero waste facility.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
As the only brewery in the country to house hydrogen fuel cells on site Sierra Nevada's four fuel cells produce a megawatt of power that provides the Chico, Calif., brewery with roughly 40 percent of its energy needs from non-combustion technology. On the solar energy front, the brewery has a solar cell array over its parking lot and rooftop that generates 2.6 megawatts of electricity for the facility and also provides an onsite electric vehicle charging station. Its green philosophy earned Sierra Nevada the title of Green Business of the Year by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010.
Alaskan Brewing Company
With a goal of having a zero-net negative effect on the environment Alaskan Brewing Company was the first craft brewery in the United States to recycle naturally occurring CO2 from the fermentation process. This one initiative offset 1.5 million gallons of fuel-oil with spent grain heating. This may not seem like much but when you consider that Alaska Brewing had to ship its CO2 from Seattle to Juneau by barge the company went from receiving one tanker per month to a mere five tankers in the last 12 years.
So whether it is St. Patrick's Day or the other 364 practice days, green is more than the color of a beer on one day. It is the color of commitment from brewers across the nation in doing their part to reduce their environmental footprint.
Sláinte! That's Irish for, "Cheers!" or more specifically, "To your health!"