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BRISTOL R.I. __ Even though that grain might seem spent, it is a surprisingly viable re-usable resource. There are dozens of ways to recycle that beat barley; brewers have used spent grain to create anything from chocolate chip cookies, to biofuel.
A common practice for most breweries is donating their spent grain to farmers to use as compost or to feed their livestock. Many of these farms are located within a few miles of the facility.
Spent grain can be beneficial to your garden. Deer and other critters will nibble on the grain, so if you place it away from your blooming botany, it will help to detract animals away from your crops. If you really know what you are doing, it can also facilitate the growth of shiitake mushrooms.
Some brewpubs use it in the kitchen because it still contains flavor and nutrients, even though it is technically waste. Hales Ales in Seattle uses it for the crostini used in their bruschetta. If that does not stir your pot, Frankenmuth Brewery in Michigan makes a “spent grain bread bowl” for their chili.
Ask for some spent grain from your local brewer, and you can make your own batch of quick bread, or dog treats. Even the social media site, Pinterest has tacked up some spent grain inspiration. However, aside from pleasuring palettes, spent grain is a surprising source of fuel.
The brewery expects to see an offset in its yearly energy costs, by 70 percent. In terms of dollar amounts, they will save about $450,000 a year. The other beauty of this operation is that they more the brewery grows, so will their fuel source.
MillerCoors, the second largest beer company in the U.S., has a facility in Colorado operated by Merrick & Company, which creates beer-ethanol: a petroleum alternative produced using spent grain and spilled beer. This undertaking, titled the MillerCoors Ethanol Project, began in 1996.
In 2008, the facility produced 1.7 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol. That same year, during the National Democratic Convention in Denver, MillerCoors supplied the political elite with E85 fuel for the sponsored fleet of 400 General Motor vehicles.
E85 is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. This is a blend because it is actually illegal to run a car entirely off ethanol.
Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs), which have been in production since the 1980s, can consume E85. FFVs use approximately 27 percent less energy per gallon than gasoline, according to the EPA.
There are mixed reviews for the sustainability of ethanol-powered cars, but I am going to let that dog rest, for this blog anyway.
Sustainable brewing practices might not solve the environmental crisis, but thinking about creative ways to recycle waste is a constructive start. If something considered trash has the potential for reuse your garden, in your kitchen, and in your car, then it is probably worth a second look.
Spent Grain Recipes
BRISTOL R.I. __ Bottles are being thrown to the wayside as canning becomes popular in the beer industry. Craft brewers in particular have begun to follow this trend. There are 285 craft brewers in the U.S. canning over 956 different beers as of 2013.
Cans are actually more conducive to preserving beer. Nick Garrison, president and founder of Foolproof Brewing Company, explained some of the reasons:
- Because they are completely opaque, they block out sunlight, which will create a bad reaction in beer known as skunking
- There’s less oxygen in the container, which decreases shelf life
- They have more mobility for consumers than glass bottles.
Foolproof Brewing Company made an infographic about why they like cans:
Could there be a better way to contain our brews? There are many variables that makeup the ecological footprint of your Bigfoot Ale, so a clear-cut winner is hard to determine. But, participation in sustainable initiatives is still the most important factor.
Cans have a smaller ecological footprint to recycle, but they require more energy to produce. The aluminum used to make cans is extracted from a naturally occurring resource called bauxite.
The bauxite is mined and refined to extract alumina, which is smelted down to convert into aluminum. Surprisingly, this process has been largely unchanged since its invention in 1886, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Aside from land scarring, the process to create a can is more energy intensive than making bottles, which uses resources that are easier to access, such as silica.
According to the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), it requires 30 percent less electricity to produce a glass bottle, than it does an aluminum can.
However, when considering the lifespan one-way containers, a study from the Wuppertal Institute in Germany claims that using bottles emits 20 percent more greenhouse gases than a can. The study factors in the resources used, and a cross-country truck journey.
This disparity is mainly due to the weight of bottles, weighing in at about 6 oz. without liquid. A truck can also pack more cases of cans than bottles, allowing for more booze, and less back-and-forth.
Other than the bauxite to create aluminum, cans have a few other production caveats.
BPA is a plastic that has become ubiquitous with the majority of goods we consume. This includes the protective liner inside aluminum cans – it is also present in bottle caps. BPA has been around as early as the 1960s, but recently the FDA has reconsidered the safety of the hard plastic.
Studies found that BPA consumption potentially causes brain disorders, behavior problems, or cancer. However, the verdict is still not in as to the severity of health complications. BPA is currently under review by the FDA, and the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), but it does have recommendations for safe use on its website.
If your favorite suds come in a can, don’t worry: a study in 2008 by the Health Ministry of Canada found that there are higher amounts of BPA in the soft drinks Diet 7Up and Mountain Dew. However, traces of BPA were negligible in both cases.
This is also a good time to debunk any myths about thinking canned beer tastes metallic. Lining to cans has been a common practice for over 40 years to prevent any aluminum (or steel) from seeping in – so that taste of pennies is all in your head.
Aluminum cans have a much longer half-life than bottles for a few reasons. For one, aluminum cans are recycled more than any other container.
Nearly half the cans produced get recycled, according to CRI. In comparison, only about a quarter of bottles get recycled.
While there is a high demand for aluminum, glass has a small market. The vast majority of recycled glass transforms back into similar containers.
Aluminum cans only require five percent of the energy to recycle as they do to produce, according to CRI. Glass bottles require more energy to recycle, especially to remove the metals used to tint them (green glass is particularly costly because of iron and copper).
Things still may be looking up for glass bottles, though. States with container deposit legislation have a much higher recycling rate, at 65 percent. Non-deposit states only see a quarter of their bottles recycled, according to the Glass Packaging Institute.
Glass bottles have also slimmed up, shedding half of their weight since 1970.
The idea of disposable containers is a relatively new concept; before WWII, the majority of beer and soft drinks were sold in refillable glass bottles. The containers could be reused anywhere from 20-50 times, according to CRI. After consolidation of the beer industry, there was a shift to one-way packaging.
From 1972 to 2003, the U.S. trashed over a trillion cans, according to CRI. This is enough to wrap around the earth 3048 times.
Refilling glass bottles can leave a substantially smaller ecological footprint compared to one-way containers, according to a 2001 study from the European Commission. This includes the costs from shipping bottles back and forth the countryside (less than 2,608 miles).
After the capitol costs, it can also be easier on brewer’s wallets. Packaging is the single largest cost in brewing and distributing.
Here are some policies that promote refilling, provided by Inform:
- Taxes on one-way containers that give a price advantage to beverages sold in refillable bottles (Finland, Norway, Ontario, New York State)
- Quotas for refillable bottles as a percentage of beverage sales volume (Ontario and Germany)
- Requiring the use of generic (standardized) bottles
- Broadening deposit laws to cover all beverages
With high return rates, refillable bottles can be the most cost effective and environmentally friendly. However, achieving wide scale implementation can be difficult.
Even though there are a lot of moving pieces to the cans vs. bottles debate, one thing is for certain, deposit laws are critical for recycling success. In the report, “Bottled Up: Beverage Container Recycling Stagnates (2000-2010)”, CRI recommends that the U.S. adopts a 5-cent container deposit.
CRI predicts that it would increase recycling rates from 37 to 75 percent. It could also have an environmental impact equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the road each year.
So the next time you grab your favorite six-pack, consider where it came from, and make that little extra effort to either recycle or deposit it. Regardless of what container it is, or where it came from, we all have a responsibility for this planet. The cans and bottles are not partaking in a massive migration towards landfills; we are putting them there; now it is time to put those resources to better use.
WOONSOCKET, R.I. __ When Dorian Rave, the Detective Lieutenant for the Central Falls Police Department, is off duty, he has an unlikely occupation. Rave is the founder and head brewer of Ravenous Brewing Company, a nanobrewery in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
Brewing more than a profession for Rave, it is a creative outlet; it allows him to express an entirely separate plane of his personality that disappears when he is on duty. He finds a harmonious balance between the two careers. Rave has served as an officer for 15 years, and Ravenous Brewing Co. celebrated its first anniversary this past weekend.
“The police job keeps me grounded, it keeps me disciplined,” said Rave, “and the beer job refreshes me in knowing that not everyone’s a bad guy.”
What began as a passion, an idea casually jotted on a notebook, turned into a business, and a new outlet for Rave to serve his community.
“The home-brew kit just got bigger and bigger,” Rave said.
Only three brewers work at the facility: Rave, his assistant, Chris Combs (who is also brewer at Trinity Brewhouse in Providence), and his five-year old daughter, who helps him wipe down the kegs when she tags along.
“She’s my little assistant brewer,” Rave said as a smile widens on his face. A worn pink coloring book sat on the pallet table next to him.
There is no bottling or canning line at Ravenous Brewing Co., so you can only find Rave’s brews in local restaurants. He would like to expand distribution with some more machinery, but he does not want to expand much further.
Through brewing, Rave has connected with the Woonsocket community. He has grown close to local businesses through fundraisers or direct trade.
“I would have never got the same experience consistently working as a cop like that,” Rave said. “It’s a different interaction when you’re making beer, and when you’re policing,” Rave laughed.
For Rave’s “Coffee Milk Stout,” he consulted New Harvest Roasters; they now supply the blend for his flagship beer.
He recently poured for an event at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket. He feels that the theatre is the “lifeline of the city.” The inbound traffic coming to see the performances helps to get more crowds into local restaurants.
Rave has also developed a tight-knit bond with other small brewers in the area. He will always give advice or lend a hand, even if it is to potential competitors.
“To me, the more the merrier. It raises awareness of the craft beer industry, and especially in Rhode Island, there is plenty of room to grow,” Rave said.
Rave has a commitment to his community, whether it is patrolling the streets of Central Falls, or pouring a batch of “Black Harvest Stout,” brewed with sweet potatoes and other “spices of the season”.
Although he wants to see Ravenous Brewing Co. grow, he does not want to lose the brewery’s intimate feel.
“I feel like this is the neighborhood brewery, and I don’t want to lose that by growing too much,” Rave said.
Dorian Rave, is the Founder and Head Brewer at Ravenous Brewing Co. in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Although he would like to see his brewery boom, he loves the connection he has established with the local community, and he doesn’t want to loose that by growing too much.
* For the first time I didn’t have enough photos! So please excuse the visually boring end of the video! 😦