8 College-Town Breweries Producing Great, Green Beer


Images via Bison Brewing Co.

Savvy, environmentally conscious (and of age!) beer enthusiasts know that even when you're in college, there's more to beer than dollar Pabst at the neighborhood dive. Microbreweries are leading the way when it comes to going green, whether they're brewing with organically grown barley and hops, or adopting renewable energy and other sustainable practices in their operations. Not only does drinking local reduce emissions from transporting those cans, bottles, or kegs around the country, your local brewery likely offers some of the tastiest brews around. We've picked eight green beers conveniently produced in college towns, near universities, and in cities with sizable student populations to get you started on your quest for better beer. Keep in mind the best choice is always draft, as keg beer has a 68 percent lower environmental impact than bottled. Many local breweries even offer a half-gallon jug, or "growler," to take home and refill again and again--a good deal for thrifty beer lovers that also reduces waste. Here's to giving "drinking responsibly" a new meaning.

1. Bison Brewing Co. (Berkeley, California)


In the eco-friendly city that is home to the University of California at Berkeley, the Bison Brewing Co. is creating award-winning beers certified organic by the Santa Cruz-based California Certified Organic Farmers, meaning all their agricultural ingredients have been grown and processed to the USDA's national organic standards. "What drives us to brew organically is the real prize of organic agriculture--barley. Acres and acres of barley," the brewers write. "Hops are just lipstick on beer (very gorgeous lipstick, mind you), but the main ingredient, malt, is the thing that really has an impact on sustainable and ecologically sound food production." The company offsets its own carbon footprint--and that of one six-pack for each customer who participates in its "drink neutral" education effort--with contributions to projects that protect rainforests in Costa Rica and help low-income households in South Africa save energy. Bison's innovative approach is reflected in its beers too: Where else can you sip on a Honey Basil Ale or a seasonal Gingerbread Ale?

2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Chico, California)

Photos via Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. California State University, Chico students are lucky to have what Planet Green previously called "perhaps the greenest brewery of its size around" in their own backyard. The brewery's flagship beer is a party standard, but there's more to Sierra Nevada than its Pale Ale. A lot more, when it comes to the environment. One of the country's largest private solar-panel arrays, combined with a fuel-cell power plant that runs on waste heat from the beer-making process, provides most of the electricity needed for the brewery--and feeds surplus juice back into the grid. Through extensive reducing, reusing, and recycling programs, Sierra Nevada diverted 98.2 percent of its waste from landfill in 2007. It's even processing its own wastewater, making biodiesel from the taproom, and fueling trucks with used vegetable oil, and experimenting with turning beer-yeast waste into ethanol.

3. Roots Organic Brewery (Portland, Oregon)

The brewpub. Photo via Roots Organic Brewery

Crunchy Reed College may have met its eco-match in this Portland brewery, where the unique, all-organic offerings include the stouty Island Red, the hop-free (really!) Burghead Heather Ale, the high-octane, served-only-in-small-glasses Epic Ale, and the Toasted Coconut Porter. The Roots Organic Brewery even grows its own organic produce to use in its pub grub, and by recycling and composting, the brewery has reduced its trash output by 98 percent. Both take-out food, packaging, and all the cups, utensils, and plates used at outside events are recyclable and biodegradable. Plus, the brewery buys 100 percent renewable energy from solar, wind, biomass, and similar sources. Even its bar/restaurant is green--the wood was reclaimed from two 100-year-old Portland homes scheduled for demolition. We'd expect no less from a brewery with the awesome slogan "Drink Organic: Save The Planet, One Beer At A Time!" Actually, make that one pitcher at a time--they're only $10 on Sundays.

4. Squatters Pub and Brewery (Salt Lake City, Utah)

Photo via Squatters Pub and Brewery.

Just a short bike or bus ride away from the University of Utah campus, Squatters Pub and Brewery is serving up the state's first organic ale, the silver medal-winning Organic Amber Ale. The brewery, which recently hosted a fundraiser for the Downtown Farmers Market, is recognized as one of Salt Lake City's e2 (environmentally and economically sustainable) businesses and has received an award for its recycling efforts--including having glass plates and glasses made from old beer bottles and making bread from its spent brewery grain--from the Recycling Coalition of Utah. An expansion of the restaurant utilized reclaimed materials and the brewery is working to reduce its power consumption and increase its purchases of renewable energy.

Find More College-Town Breweries Producing Great, Green Beer on page 2.

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