One of Vermont’s best-known breweries made a change to its manufacturing process it hopes could inspire fresh approaches to reducing environmental impacts across the industry.
“This is checking a couple of different boxes in our goal to get as close to zero waste as possible,” said John Kimmich of The Alchemist in Stowe.
The fermentation process of making beer also produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas The Alchemist once had to simply release into the atmosphere — until the installation of a new device.
The maker of the popular double IPA Heady Topper explained a system created by Earthly Labs in Texas captures a lot of that CO2 from the brewery’s tanks, processing it so it can be used to carbonate beer.
The technology previously is something only the largest brewers would have, Kimmich noted, adding that it is now more in reach of the little guys.
On top of repurposing emissions, Kimmich said a key benefit is reducing truck travel needed to bring in CO2 for carbonating and canning.
The Alchemist expects to reclaim the amount of CO2 it would take to can 1.8-million cans of beer yearly. The system could have an impact equal to planting 1,600 trees a year, according to an estimate provided to The Alchemist by Earthly Labs.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said Steve Miller, an Alchemist employee who manages the brewery’s on-site wastewater management facility — another example of how the business aims to lighten its impact on the planet.
That water treatment area removes materials like yeasts from water.
Much of the organic waste from the brewery is composted and whatever can be recycled is. Outside, you’ll find big solar panels.
Kimmich said the brewery plans to soon add more solar panels, so that 100% of the electricity needed for the facility can be produced on-site.
Kimmich said in an interview he hopes his focus on sustainability can be a national example for the industry.
“We are very open with our knowledge here on that front,” he said. “I’m not going to tell you what’s in our beer, but I’ll certainly help you reduce your environmental footprint.”
Kimmich said he expects savings on CO2 over time will pay back his investment, which is typically just over a six-figure cost.
Miller said some feel there may even be another plus to closing the CO2 loop.
“I believe it has a nicer taste and mouth feel to it, which is pretty exciting, too,” Miller said.