The connection between a hoppy beer and the aromatic pines of the Sierra Nevada foothills is undeniable for me. Whether enjoying a cold one after a long hike in the Tahoe National Forest, or while basking on the granite rocks of the Yuba River, I can confidently say that beer always tastes better in the great outdoors. Henry David Thoreau was quoted as saying, “Instead of water we got here a draught of beer…a lumberer’s drink, which would acclimate and naturalize a man at once—which would make him see green, and, if he slept, dream that he heard the wind sough among the pines.”
This connection between beer and nature is not at all lost on one of my favorite breweries, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. The not-so-small craft beer maker has become a vocal change agent for sustainability, not only to benefit their bottom line, but also to protect and conserve our natural resources. According to a Popular Science article when President Trump announced that the United States would no longer take part in the Paris climate agreement, Sierra Nevada was also one of 10 craft brewers to pledge to abide by the terms. They’ve also helped develop sustainability resources shared with new craft brewers to take the guesswork out of sustainable brewing methods.
The commitment to sustainable manufacturing practices is key to keeping the craft beers flowing for decades to come as brewing is a highly energy intensive task. Most notably, a lot of power is needed to boil the thousands of gallons of water used to make the ales and lagers so many of us enjoy. Sierra Nevada addresses the challenge by instilling “reduce, reuse, recycle” into their business model, along with outfitting their Chico location with an ever-growing list of technologies that encourage more environmentally friendly business practices. From over 10,000 solar panels to microturbines, the brewery is on the cutting edge of green tech and advanced energy storage. Last year 500 kilowatts/1 megawatt-hour of Tesla Powerpack batteries were installed to discharge power at times of peak consumption which ultimately reduces costs and relieves stress on the grid.
While these energy-efficient upgrades don’t necessarily come cheap, there is a monetary upside for brewers across the country. A recent NPR article by Rachel D. Cohen reported that “A majority of the 1,000 U.S. beer drinkers surveyed say they are willing to pay more for sustainably-produced beer, and on average, they would pay around $1.30 more per six-pack”. This is an encouraging finding as values-based purchasing has become a growing trend in recent years. So not only do many craft brewers want to lessen their environmental impact, but their customer base is in such strong agreement that they’ll put their money where their mouths are.
And in this case, their mouths are on a pint glass brimming with sustainably produced beer.