The Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau, Alaska has found an incredibly smart way to dispose of the waste grains it produces during the beer-making process. It’s going to start converting the whole mess to bio-fuel, which will then be fed to the brewery’s steam boiler.
Yes, they’re essentially using beer to make more beer.
For decades, many breweries around the world have been making sure that spent grain doesn’t go to waste. It’s still loaded with protein and other nutrients, and it’s often sold to livestock farmers as feed — even by Anheuser-Busch, one of the world’s largest brewing operations.
Why did the owners of the Alaskan Brewing Company decide to look for an alternative way to repurpose its waste grain? There aren’t a whole lot of farmers around Juneau, so local demand is low. The company has tried shipping to farms further south, but it’s too expensive to justify since trucking isn’t an option.
So with the help of a North Dakota firm, the company set about designing and building a special boiler system that would be fueled by the spent grain instead. In just a few more weeks the new boiler will be ready to fire up. Once it’s online, Alaskan Brewing expects to shave its annual energy bills by as much as 70% — which could amount to about $450,000 in savings.
That’s a pretty solid return on investment for a project that was funded with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America program.
Brewing operations manager Brandon Smith says there’s no other brewery in the world doing what Alaskan is doing. But there are others who are finding additional ways to get as much as possible out of their waste grain.
The New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado partnered up with Solix Biofuels a few years ago. The brewery provides thousands of tons of carbon dioxide which Solix uses to feed algae — which is later processed into biofuel.
Busch, it turns out, isn’t just one of the world’s largest brewers. It’s also one of the largest producers of biogas, which the company extracts from the wastewater at some of its locations. At others, that same water is used to provide nutrient-rich food to biofuel crops.
This kind of development in renewable energy puts a whole new spin on those “powered by beer” t-shirts.