Eco-drinks for Earth Day

Apr 21, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Needing to unwind after a hard day of Earth advocacy? Or perhaps you just want to give your corporate master the virtual finger after being trapped in your cell cubicle, increasing shareholder value, all day? In either case, you can do so in a way that's friendlier for the planet we all share. Gut Check is here to help you cut through the green-washing and find truly double capital-G Good Green drinks.

click to enlarge Raise a glass to Mother Earth.
Raise a glass to Mother Earth.


The Good: Lots of local options; efficiency aligns with cost-savings, so brewers have extra incentive.

The Bad: Few organic ingredients; Big Ag is a prime player in malted barley; high transportation impact.

Beer production is an energy- and water-intensive process. The more breweries that can reduce and reuse the heat and water necessitated by their activities, the more environmentally-friendly they'll be.

But there are also hard to quantify impacts, particularly regarding transportation. How do the ingredients get to the brewery? How far do they travel? These are incredibly difficult for the consumer to gauge due to the sheer number of variables involved. But what's easier to single out is post-production transportation: How far does the beer travel to get to the bar or the beer store, and how efficient is that transport?

On this front, local beer wins hands-down, with the best being beer served at its point of production. Of local breweries, Schlafly is the current king of sustainable practices, with a firm and long-standing commitment to improving its environmental impact. We suggest hitting up either the Tap Room or Bottleworks locations for a pint.

Schlafly considers its impact in everything from building design to equipment purchases to sourcing local ingredients for its menus,to support for environmentally-minded local groups like Slow Food and St. Louis Green Drinks.

Second choice would be to hit one of the other fine local brewpubs in St. Louis for a pint, like Mattingly Brewing Company (we love the Black Sky Stout Porter & the Hoptimal Munition APA), Buffalo Brewing Co. (the Rye IPA is terrific), or Six Row Brewing Company.

If you must make do with bottled beer from afar, Gut Check suggests Sierra Nevada. While many breweries are tackling environmental initiatives, Sierra Nevada has done it for so long and on such a large scale that it's definitely the pace-setter.

A brief run down? Solar arrays and a 1-MegaWatt fuel-cell system that can provide 100% of itspower needs, efficient heat and CO2-recovery systems, on-site water treatment and biofuel-production plants and -- the big one -- its own rail spur for delivery of ingredients and shipment of beer. That last one is a biggie when it comes to picking up Sierra Nevada at the store, as rail shipping is much more efficient than trucks.