Photo: Lynn F under a Creative Commons license.
This week, Greenopia released its updated green rankings of the world's 15 largest breweries. Judged on the growing practices of the barley, malt and hops it uses, transportation, production efficiency and packaging of its beer, New Belgium came out on top, with a perfect four out of four leaves. The company considers sustainability a key tenet of its philosophy, and is entirely wind-powered. With three leaves each, the runners-up are Berkeley-based Bison Brewery (which produces exclusively organic beers) and Eel River, which came out with America's first certified organic beer in 1999. At the bottom of the list, without a single leaf between them, are Coors, Guinness, Samuel Adams and Heineken. Anheuser-Busch and Corona fared slightly better, grabbing one leaf each. The data used in rating was gathered from the breweries themselves.
It's not clear how Greenopia selected the breweries it ranked, which they describe as the 15 largest in the world. That doesn't seem right, though- where's Miller, for example, and are the Butte Creek, Bison and Eel River breweries really that large? But these doubts aside, it's good to have Greenopia's rankings. In a time when we're seeing an upsurge of microbreweries and organic beer, and New Belgium's flagship Fat Tire beer seems to be taking over the world, having some concrete rankings as to what's green and what's greenwashing is crucial.
One of the oldest beverages in the world, beer has only recently been getting attention for its environmental impact, which varies depending on the efficiency of the brewery and the ingredients used. Concerns include the fact that beer production often requires 7-10 liters of water for every liter of beer and its key ingredients are often difficult to obtain through organic means. Some beer companies, like Eel River, Bison Brewery, and New Belgium Brewery, have taken significant steps to decrease their impact.