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Craft Brew Alliance

Craft Brew Alliance

Improving Efficiency to Brew Better Beer with a Better Bottom Line

The Alliance
Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) was formed with the merger of leading Pacific Northwest craft brewers to preserve and grow one-of-a-kind craft beers and brands. Redhook Brewery and Widmer Brothers Brewing joined CBA in 2008, followed by Kona Brewing Company in 2010.

Most breweries are focused on getting product out the door. They have little time to consider what their wastes are costing them. CBA is at the forefront - trying to eliminate as much waste as possible while becoming more productive. The goal: produce better beer with a better bottom line. With this in mind, CBA’s Julia Person asked Ecology’s Technical Resources for Engineering Efficiency (TREE) team to assist her team to cut waste and increase efficiency.

Photo of inside the brewery.
Dan Ferguson, of Ecology, and Julia Person, of Craft
Brew Alliance, take infrared readings of the bottling
line motors and gear boxes.

The TREE team focused on the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville. The facility was built in 1994 after outgrowing their breweries in the Ballard and Fremont neighborhoods of Seattle. The facility’s expansive grounds are home to the brewery and host many events and festivities.

Cutting Waste and Improving Efficiency

Redhook’s Woodinville Brewery is lucky to have a tasting room and a full service restaurant. Like similar facilities, they wanted to improve handling of solid waste and recycling. Ecology recommended careful monitoring of their segregation of bottles, cans, and other solid wastes from the restaurant to help prevent solid waste and recyclables from being mixed. In addition, the brewery had high surcharges on their sewer bill for excessive Biologic Oxygen Demand (BOD measures organic material in their discharge). Breweries struggle with this type of waste because their discharges contain expired beer product, spent grain liquids, and other brewery liquids, which all have high BOD. The trick was figuring out how to better manage these wastes.

Ecology’s TREE team conducted several site visits (at no charge to the company). They conferred with the facility and suggested a number of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce waste and save money. These BMPs included diverting spent yeast, grains, and liquids from the sewer and instead providing them to local dairy farms to be used as cattle feed. This avoided high BOD loads and the resulting high surcharge on their sewer bill.

infrared readout
Infrared picture showing the
temperature gradient of a gear box.

To help the Redhook Brewery with energy costs, the TREE team audited for air leaks and inefficient motor function with an infrared device. The air leak audit found 48 leaks costing the company about $19,000 each year in electricity. Fixing these air leaks will save the brewery about 216,531 kWh per year and cut more than 17,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions - in addition to the money saved. The motor function audit found 18 motors and 20 gear boxes running hotter than normal; these were evaluated to determine whether they needed maintenance or replacement.

Redhook Brewery in Woodinville Boasts Impressive Results
So far, Redhook:

  • Reduced the costs of both sewer and electricity, which boosts their bottom line.
  • Eliminated the water-soap mixture used to move bottles in favor of a liquid-free bottling line. This is expected to bring an even larger drop in water usage and sewer fees.
  • Shared knowledge with others.

Craft Brew Alliance is applying the improved practices they learned from Ecology’s TREE team to their other brewery facilities. And they’re discovering more improvements and innovations on their own. They realize cutting waste, and conserving water and energy are big money savers and good for business. Beer drinkers can toast to that!