Beer-powered Beer

By Anna Simet | February 14, 2013

When you live way up north and it is way too miserable to do anything that involves going outside (we’re talking as bad as 50 below zero with the wind chill), drinking beer is an efficient way of passing the time.

Speaking of efficient—and beer—I recently came across a project at Alaskan Brewing Company that involves both. The brewery has been working for nearly two decades to operate as efficiently as possible, focusing on utilizing its spent grain waste from the beer-making process. It began in 1995 with the installation of a grain dryer, which was designed to use up to 50 percent of the grain as a supplemental fuel source to heat the dryer itself, reducing a good amount of fuel oil required for the drying process.

Then, according to the company, in 2008 it installed a mash filter press, which furthered its efficiencies and produces a lower-moisture spent grain that better lends itself to drying, and works even better as fuel in the previously installed grain dryer. Then, toward the end of 2012, installation of a $1.8 million spent grain steam boiler system was completed, which the company anticipates will eliminate the use of 1.5 million gallons of fuel oil over the next ten years.

Kind of an amazing turn of events, in my opinion. They started off small, working carefully over the years, for an end result that is going to save them big buck. It's also a much more environmentally-friendly alternative to oil, and unique. I’ve heard of (and toured) breweries using spent grains in anaerobic digesters to capture biogas, but this is new to me. According to Alaskan Beer Company, they’re the first craft brewery in the world to use spent grains this way.

Anyway, when you’re a small business, every penny saved matters. This project is an excellent example of how today’s companies are constantly exploring their energy options to reduce costs, and are often finding the most practical plan to involve a form of renewable energy.