The solar installation at Maine Beer Co. in Freeport. Photo courtesy of Maine Beer Co.

The governor recently released “Maine Won’t Wait: A Four-Year Plan for Climate Action” outlining the steps Maine will take to fight climate change, beginning this year. Maine’s brewing industry had a voice at the table in Dan Kleban, co-owner of Maine Beer Co.

“We’re proud to live in a state that is taking the lead in terms of Climate Action,” Kleban said in an email. “It was an honor to be asked to be a small business representative for the governor’s Climate Action team because we understand the importance of having the private sector actively involved in the effort to combat climate change. By bringing together voices and perspectives from across our state, this team hopes to take actions that will work for the environment and all Mainers.”

Some breweries, including Maine Beer Co., are already fighting climate change. The Freeport-based brewery last August completed a solar installation that will replace 51% of the brewery’s energy use and signed up for community solar. In 2019, they set a goal of producing more clean energy than they consume by 2030. They’ve also donated solar installations to their nonprofit partners, Wolfe’s Neck and the Center for Wildlife.

Maine Beer Co., whose motto is “Do what’s right” and has always donated 1 percent of sales to environmental groups, continues to look for ways to reduce environmental impact, large and small. Its Blue Crew evaluates the facility’s daily practices to see where they can become more energy efficient, like figuring out what to do with hard-to-recycle items like bottle caps. Turns out, by filling pizza sauce tins used in their restaurant with the bottle caps, they can crimp them shut and then recycle the whole thing more easily.

The Blue Crew got much of its inspiration from Allagash Brewing Co.’s Green Team, according to Maine Beer Co. spokesperson Anne Marisic. Allagash’s Green Team, formed in 2008, also works on the big and little changes. The team has long advised brewery decisions but became better at setting and measuring its goals when the brewery became a Certified B Corporation in 2019, meaning it meets the highest standards for social and environmental performance.

One big change was its commitment to sourcing local ingredients, which greatly reduced its carbon footprint. In 2017, Allagash pledged to purchase 1 million pounds of Maine-grown grain in 2021 by slowly increasing local purchasing. With 728,600 pounds purchased in 2020, it’s on track to meet that goal.

The brewery installed a solar array on its rooftop in 2016 and a de-aerated water system in 2017, which allows the brewery to flush lines with water rather than beer, which takes energy to produce.

But the little changes add up too, like changing fluorescent lights to LEDs, using motion-detecting lights, installing more efficient cooling, steam, air and wastewater systems, all changes the Green Team has made, according to Allagash marketing specialist Brett Willis.

Allagash collects hard-to-recycle items, like can carriers, corks and cages, brown paper, bubble wrap and plastic packing pillows, from other breweries and consumers. The public can drop off these items at a drive-through, where they are then stored and sent to recycling facilities in bulk.

Kyle DePietro, owner and brewer at Sasanoa Brewing on Westport Island, which composts it spent grain and yeast slurry for use on its farm. Photo by Catie Joyce-Bulay

Smaller breweries are making the environment a priority too. Westport Island’s Sasanoa Brewing and Monson’s Turning Page Farm Brewery both installed solar power, and much of the waste in the brewing process is used in their farm operations. The organic Sasanoa composts its spent grain and yeast slurry back into its accompanying Tarbox Farm, where some of the herbs and vegetables they grow go back into their saisons.

Turning Page feeds its spent grain to its pigs. The new solar panels will be up and running in June. They also use an exterior wood boiler to heat the brewery and tasting room, using blowdowns from the farm’s woodlot. On sunny days, they harness the sun to heat a greenhouse-style tasting room, which brewer Tim Beuschen said can get up to 70 degrees on a 0-degree day.

Baxter Brewing recently made a major investment in curbing its carbon footprint by purchasing a carbon dioxide reclamation unit – the first craft brewery in Maine to do so, according to communications manager Tony Grassi. Carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process. At the same time, breweries need beverage-grade CO2 gas in their bottling process.

“The whole process was a quagmire of inefficiency,” said Grassi. “But companies like Earthly Labs, where we got our reclamation unit (which arrives in February), figured out how to successfully condense the technology for craft breweries, and allows us to track our capture. It’s a complete game-changer. We are estimating we can reduce off-gassing by 75 percent.”

Several other Maine breweries get some power from solar as well, including Austin Street Brewery, Bangor Beer Co., Flight Deck Brewing, Fogtown Brewing Co., Geaghan Brothers Brewing Co., Mast Landing Brewing Co. and The Liberal Cup. Now, you’ve got even more reason to love their beers.

Catie Joyce-Bulay is a Winslow-based freelance writer who recently moved back to her home state. Find her writing on beer, travel and people pursuing their passion at catiejoycebulay.com or Twitter: @catiejoycebulay.

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