Whatever happened to returnable bottles? The inimitable Joe Sixpack has an article about returnables.
Go visit a brewery in Belgium or Germany, and the biggest piece of equipment you'll see is the bottle washer. Placed at the head of the production line, the machine automatically sorts, scrubs and sterilizes bottles and their plastic cases. Watching one of the machines at work in Norway, I marveled at how people even dutifully replaced the caps on plastic containers that were returned to be reused by the bottler.There's no reason why even if the distributor or the retailers don't take them back, the breweries themselves can't take them back. It would have not only the advantage of getting the bottles back, but it gets customers out to the brewery. Maybe they stay and have a beer while they're there (not that you could feed them while they were there, and now we have this whole "Wisconsin drinks and drives too much" thing going on)? Is it that reasonable for me to save up Tyranena bottles, it's not like it's right down the street. But Ale Asylum is. And that might just make the difference in deciding to buy one beer over the other. And, it's not like I'm never in Lake Mills (or Amherst, or Spring Green, or Janesville), I could save up my bottles and take 'em with me when I get there.
Likewise in Canada, beer drinkers return an astounding 97 percent of refillable bottles. The Brewers Association of Canada boasts that refillable bottles are "quite possibly the most environmentally friendly container on earth" and claims its so-called "closed-loop" system diverts more than a million tons of waste from landfills each year.
On Wednesday we talked about brewers growing their own (hmmm, maybe I wasn't as remiss as I thought). Not only would this practice stabilize hop supplies, but it would significantly reduce the gasoline used trucking the hops across the country (most American hops come from the Yakima Valley in Washington, Oregon and Idaho) or indeed all over the world.
Adnams brewery has launched the first "carbon neutral" beer in the United Kingdom.[article at Publican via RealBeer]
“If this beer sold in comparative volumes to Broadside it would be the equivalent of taking six cars off the road a year,” he said. “It is a great-tasting light golden beer and it is greener than any other beer on the market.”What was the most effective means of reducing the carbon footprint of this beer? Yeah, you guessed it. Local ingredients. Adnams also used a "very light malt" - although that phrase is somewhat ambiguous - does the malt weight less or did they simply use less malt?
So, what's the lesson here? Well, it seems like it's the message we've been preaching from the beginning - drink and brew local! In this case, by acquiring local ingredients not only are raw material inventories stabilized (thus prices and availability are easier to predict, making costs and profits easier to forecast), but you support your local farmers. I have it on good authority that farmers like to drink beer. Sourcing locally also reduces your carbon footprint by reducing the fossil fuels required to truck you ingredients all over the place. Using and re-using re-usable bottles not only saves water, fossil fuels and landfill space, but it generates positive goodwill by drawing customers out to the brewery. How's that for environmentally friendly?