Milwaukee Brewing Company was founded on principles of crafting and creating beers using the best local ingredients and suppliers in a sustainable, creative and innovative environment. In support of these values, our brewery is designed to take advantage of technical opportunities to reduce the resources required to produce beer. Brewing is fundamentally resource intensive. Large quantities of water, huge heating and cooling needs, and packaging materials are unavoidable facts of our industry.
Milwaukee originally became the brewing capital of the world in the late 1800’s because of the ample access to fresh water, ice, and agriculture. These attributes of Milwaukee still are essential to responsible production of beer. Water is critical to the consistency of the product, and Lake Michigan is part of the largest and most consistent fresh water system in the world. This resource alone makes Milwaukee the ideal place to brew.
Modern breweries typically use 3–4 times the water that actually ends up in the beer. Brewing Industry innovation centers around breweries located in fresh water-starved areas such as California and Colorado. We feel that water is a precious resource regardless of our fortune to have such a plentiful supply. Energy consumption involved with treating and distributing water to the brewery, and treating the waste water leaving the brewery can dramatically reduce the environmental impact of our brewery. For that reason we conserve water through traditional and non-traditional methods.
Breweries require large amount of heating energy to heat the mash water, boil the wort in the brew kettle, and create hot cleaning solutions for vast cleaning needs. When we picked up our boilers on eBay, we bought twice as much power as we needed. One of the boilers burns natural gas purchased from the utility, most likely sourced from the Gulf of Mexico. The second boiler is set up to burn fuel oil. The brewery scoundrels engineered a process to burn vegetable oil in that boiler. Waste vegetable oil from the Milwaukee Ale House and other local restaurants is used to provide VOC-free energy. In 2011 this furnished about 30% of the heating needs, and we continue to seek new sources of dirty vegetable oil. Fortunately, Milwaukee enjoys fried food, and the staple Friday Fish Fry alone could fuel the brewery for years to come. If you own a restaurant in the Milwaukee are and want to know your waste oil is offsetting petroleum use, call us and we’ll pick it up! (414) 226-2336 x112.
Another innovative and impactful system is the refrigeration recovery system. This system takes heat that would typically be vented out of the building through a rooftop condenser and grabs that heat for hot water production. This dramatically reduces the boiler energy needed to heat water.
In 2009, we installed a 24-foot high-volume, low-velocity fan. This replaced 18 traditional industrial ceiling fans. The massive volume of air is gently distributed throughout the brewery, dramatically reducing hot spots and lowering the heating and cooling energy requirements.
The largest consumed resource in the brewery is electricity. The biggest load is refrigeration equipment, but there is a significant amount of pumps, conveyors, packaging equipment, lighting, and forklifts.
In addition to the refrigeration recovery system discussed in the Fuel section, we also have installed a system that reduces refrigeration electrical needs. The system combines all facility cooling needs into a central system that matches cooling production to the exact needs. Previously, every cooler or piece of equipment had individual systems that operate far more inefficiently.
When the brewery was constructed in 2007, the older HID lighting was replaced with high-efficiency fluorescent fixtures, cutting the lighting consumption in half.
The opportunity to purchase barley and other grains locally dramatically reduces the carbon footprint of shipping from far away. Our grains are sourced with Briess malting company, 75minutes north of Milwaukee. Because of Milwaukee’s historical brewing prominence, we are fortunate to have a leading supplier that can be considered Local.
Once the brew day has ended, we are left with the “spent grain”. A shell of its former self, the grain is done contributing to the product we love, but has quite a bit of organic power left. We are fortunate to have the highly innovative Growing Power urban farming in town. Our spent grain adds nutritional value and accelerates production in the massive composting operation that fuels the plant growth with potent compost. Growing power provides important organic fresh vegetables to the Milwaukee community.
Although Wisconsin was once the leading hop-growing area in the country, hops are not grown in large commercial quantities since pre-prohibition. The Craft Brewing Industry has initiated a movement to encourage farmers to try the crop. We have produced a harvest Ale in 2010 and 2011 using all Wisconsin-grown hops that were hustled straight from the vine to the brew kettle. We will continue to support this movement in our plans for years to come.
Brown glass is the standard package for craft beer, centered on the consumer perception that it is the best package for beer quality and stability. Unfortunately, returnable bottles are part of brewery history, as all glass is now single use. The opportunity for responsible bottling is in the other support packaging. We source all of our printed 6-packs, labels, and boxes in the Midwest, mostly in Wisconsin.
The most exciting movement for us is the acceptance of the Craft Can. We installed the first “micro-canning” system in Wisconsin because we believe that this is a much better package in many ways:
- Most recycled package in the world
- Far Lighter reducing energy used to ship
- Far less energy used to produce than a bottle
- Very low oxygen and zero light intrusion means better beer
- Cans are safer — chipping, shattering, etc.
- Our fan base camps, bikes, boats, etc. Cans are much better for outdoor activities.