How green is your beer?

25 September 2014 | James Fritz

It’s the end of Oktoberfest, one of the biggest festivals in the world and famous for its big beer tents. You’ll usually only see a green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, courtesy of an enterprising brewery and too much food colouring. But in a world where we’re increasingly aware of the carbon footprint of what we eat, isn’t it high time we paid attention to what we drink as well? 

So what can we do to limit the environmental impact of a celebratory occasion?

Drink organic beer. 

Try and find beers from breweries that use organically grown ingredients - such as the Wychwood brewery, the UK’s largest brewer of organic ales - letting you sink a lovely pint which hasn’t been made using pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that are damaging to the environment. 

Stick to water-saving breweries. 

Water wasting is a big problem, it's been estimated that it takes eight pints of water on average to make one pint of beer. If you can, stick to breweries - like Suffolk brewery Adnams - that have committed to reducing their water wastage.

Go local. 

It goes without saying that going local is always a good bet. That fancy American lager you're fond of has burnt up a lot of fuel to get to your table. Sticking with local ales limits the distance that the beer has to be transported, cutting carbon emissions. It's been estimated that all the ingredients in a locally brewed, locally sold beer could travel as little as 600 miles, while alcohol from major European brewery could accumulate tens of thousands of miles before you drink it. All the better if you can find a local microbrewery, where - if they keg onsite - the beer only has to move a matter of feet to arrive in your glass. 

Drink pints not bottles. 

Try and stay away from bottles, drinking pints instead. Not only do you get more for your money, the receptacle can be instantly reused. The UK has more glass bottles than it knows what to do with, meaning that even once dishwashers have been taken into account, beer in a pint glass has a significantly lower environmental impact.

Avoid cans at all costs. 

Cans are even worse. While they are easier to recycle than glass bottles, the transportation involved in mass canning and the high-energy process it takes to create aluminium make beer cans an environmental villain. 

Embrace the choice. 

Thankfully the rise in craft beers and microbreweries in the past few years has given UK consumers even more environmentally conscious options. These days any self-respecting gastropub should have several local organic tipples for you to try.

You now have more choice than ever before when celebrating - cheers!

More info, data and debate on this subject can be found here, here or here.

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