Brewing Beer to Save the Planet

Okay, maybe I am not going to save the planet by brewing beer.  I am, however, going to reduce my carbon footprint and make a product more suited to my tastes by taking control of the means of production.

My path towards homebrew stems from two nagging concerns.  First, spending about $8 per six pack of beer is fine but when I dislike a majority of the beers for a variety of reasons it starts to bug me.  In particular, craft brewers tend to think that more “hoppy” flavors and aromas signify a superior product.  It has gotten so bad with the last couple of six packs that I thought I was getting smacked in the face with a hop clad fist.

Second, the environmental footprint of my beer drinking has to be large.  Here is something that is mostly water and shipped across the country in glass bottles that may or may not be recycled.  New Belgium Brewery, who make some of my favorite widely available beers, conducted an analysis into the carbon footprint of a six pack of Fat Tire Amber Ale.  Four areas—retail operations, glass, distribution, and paper—account for 60.4% of an average six pack’s carbon footprint.  Therefore, by brewing my own beer in reusable glass bottles I am going to have a crack at reducing my beer drinking habit’s carbon footprint by approximately 60%.  Considering that I have made the step of making my own soda at home to reduce my carbon footprint, beer seemed like the next logical step.

What pushed me over the edge is that Northern Brewer, a homebrew retailer in Minnesota and Wisconsin, recently had an offer of 40% off their deluxe starter kit if you bought the Better Bottle carboys.  Carboys are the primary vessels used in the fermentation of beer and are generally made of glass.  The Better Bottle is an non-permissible plastic bottle, which means that oxygen will not seep into the beer through the carboy’s walls.  I would have preferred glass carboys, due to glasses inherent recyclability and durability when cared for properly, but the discount was enough an inducement to get me to jump.

Coming back home from an unplanned trip to Ohio for a funeral, a mountain of boxes from Northern Brewer were waiting for me on the front step.  After unpacking and watching my daughter go hog wild with some bubble wrap I was left with this:

In addition to the deluxe starter kit, I purchased two 64 ounce jug bottles, three cases of 22 ounce glass bottles, and two recipe kits.  The recipe kits are to make American wheat and honey Kolsch beer varieties.  This weekend I will make my first attempt to brew beer and document the process.


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