Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ecology Experts Assist Craft Brew Alliance to Produce Better Beer with a Better Bottom Line

By Joanne Lind, communications, Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction

Most breweries are focused on getting product out the door. They have little time to consider what their wastes are costing them.

Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) is trying a new approach with the help of Ecology’s Technical Resources for Engineering Efficiency (TREE) team. CBA’s sustainability manager Julia Person asked us to assist her team in cutting waste and increasing efficiency. The goal was to eliminate as much waste as possible, while becoming more productive and continuing to produce great libations.

CBA is the merger of leading Pacific Northwest craft brewers: Redhook Brewery, Widmer Brothers Brewing, and Kona Brewing Company. Together they aim to preserve and grow one-of-a-kind craft beers and brands. The TREE team focused on the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville. The facility’s expansive grounds host many events and include a tasting room and a full-service restaurant. Redhook wanted to improve their solid waste handling and recycling.

Cutting waste and increasing energy efficiency saves money

Our TREE team visited Redhook several times (at no charge to the company) and suggested a number of ways to reduce waste and save money. One was to carefully separate bottles, cans, and other recyclables from solid wastes coming out of the restaurant.

But the brewery also had high surcharges on their sewer bill due to excessive organic material in their discharge. Breweries struggle with this type of waste because their discharges contain expired beer product, spent grain liquids, and other brewery liquids. The trick was figuring out how to better manage these wastes. We recommended diverting spent yeast, grains, and liquids from the sewer, and instead providing them to local dairy farms for cattle feed. This got the organic materials out of their discharges and ended the high sewer surcharge.

Ecology audit identifies waste

To help Redhook with energy costs, the TREE team conducted an audit of machinery on their production line. We used an infrared device to find compressor air leaks and motors not functioning efficiently. The air leak audit found 48 leaks costing the company about $19,000 each year in electricity. The motor function audit found 18 motors and 20 gear boxes running hotter than normal.

Fixing these problems will save the brewery about 216,531 kilowatt hours per year and cut more than 17,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions - in addition to the money saved.

Redhook boasts impressive results. So far, they:
  • Reduced the costs of both sewer and electricity.
  • Eliminated the water-soap mixture used to move bottles in favor of a liquid-free bottling line. This is expected to bring an even larger drop in water usage and sewer fees.
  • Educated others by hosting a workshop to share what they learned. They also helped other breweries connect with resources throughout the Northwest Region, such as our TREE team and the Pollution Prevention Resource Center.
CBA is applying the improved practices they learned from Ecology’s TREE team to their other brewery facilities. And they’re discovering more improvements and innovations on their own. They realize cutting waste and conserving water and energy are big money savers and good for business. Beer drinkers can toast to that!

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