Friday, January 30, 2009

This Is Not An Invitation For Everyone To Start Sending Me Press Releases

It's two-for-one day here at MBR. Like I said a few weeks back, I don't want to get in the habit of just posting press releases and I promise to keep it to a bare minimum. But, this one is really cool news from a project that we brought to you back in June of 2008, Dave Anderson's BrewFarm.

If you'll recall Mr. Anderson is starting a sustainable brewery project in Wilson, WI that uses solar, wind and geothermal power for the brewing operations and will grow its own organic hops right on the farm.

A pretty awesome project that not only showcases Wisconsin brewing but Wisconsin's commitment to renewable energy; both areas where we can be leaders in the new "green" economy. Next time I have Mr. Anderson on the line, remind me to ask him about his CO2 policy. Seriously.

OK, a brief aside before the press release because it's actually a really interesting issue that causes some consternation amongst brewers and the environmental folks. The brewing process generates quite a bit of CO2. It has to go somewhere. When it's trapped in a bottle it provides carbonation, which in turns leads to the pretty foamy stuff in your glass. But, in the fermenting process it causes all kinds of problems so it is directed away from and out of the fermenting vessel. If you talk to environmentally conscious brewers like Tommy Porter or Rob Larson or Russ Klisch, they recognize the problem that releasing CO2 into the atmosphere causes. Brewery operations of a sufficient size can recapture this release and use it to generate power that is added to the power grid. But it's very expensive for all but the biggest breweries (even City Brewery, a sizable brewery in La Crosse, WI, needed the help of a $250,000 grant). As a result, most small breweries begrudgingly release these emissions back into the air. So, I'd be curious to hear what Mr. Anderson is doing about this, if anything, on his BrewFarm.

Anyway. On to the Press Release - the BrewFarm is having a "barn raising" party for the wind turbine that they are putting up on February 3rd (that's Tuesday). If you happen to live in or near Wilson, WI you can show up at 9am and witness it for yourself. If you're a news organization and want someone to cover this event, I'd be happy to drive up there for you, just let me know.


Wilson, WI

Please join us for the raising of what will be the start of Wisconsin's
Wind-Brewed Beer on Dave's BrewFarm, a sustainably-based craft brewery in
Wilson, WI. On February 3, 2009, at approximately 9:00 a.m., we'll be
putting up a Jacobs 31-20, a 20kW wind generator on a 120-foot tower to
harvest the bountiful winds on the northern ridge of Wilson. The generator
is projected to provide up to 50% of the needed electricity for the

The wind generator is but one component of the sustainable aspect of the
BrewFarm project, with geothermal heating/cooling and solar thermal rounding
out the renewable energy mix. Greywater recycling will handle the brewery's
wastewater, which will be used in the hopyard and orchards of Little Wolf
Farmstead, the agricultural component of the project.

The BrewFarm is an innovative demonstration project showcasing the latest in
renewable and sustainable business practices, and rural development. Our
hope is that through "leading by example" other businesses will adopt these
(and other) sustainable strategies, realizing that every effort helps the
planet - and the bottom line.

Be sure to dress warm, as this is an outdoor event - and may take some time
given the variable conditions of the day. It "usually" takes about a half
hour for the crane to lift the tower - the crane is scheduled to arrive at
8:30 a.m. and will take a half hour (+/-) to get set-up. If there's any
questions be sure to call first.

2470 Wilson St.
Wilson, WI 54027
(takes about an hour from the Cities)


  1. I am not sure that I understand the "Turn CO2 into power" discussion. CO2 is a fire extinguisher, not a combustable gas. Don't you have to burn gas to make power? I am aware of methane digesters for cow manure and municipal wastewater treatment plants, but if your fermentation outgas has any appreciable methane concentration, you need to think very carefully about sanitation in your process.


  3. I also think there is a misunderstanding here after looking back at the links from the State Wide Discussion post.

    The AB citation says they use

    "an anaerobic method for processing brewing-related wastewater and capturing the resulting biogas (methane)"

    which means that the biogas is coming from the processing/anaerobic digestion of the wastewater and probably does not include CO2 from fermentation.

    The Wikipedia citation even goes on to say this about biogas

    "Carbon dioxide, Water, hydrogen sulfide and particulates must be removed if present"

    My best guess is that if the CO2 is involved it would be used as a carbon source for photosynthetic biomass production, possibly on site.

    Hope this helps clarify.

  4. I think Steve is right. The City Brewing process is capturing methane from the anaerobic digestion of the wastewater. This is not related to the CO2 from the fermentation. CO2 is a byproduct of combustion, not a fuel. Otherwise CO2 from fossil fuel combustion would not be an issue - we'd just burn the CO2 again.

    The problem with methane is that, like CO2, it is a greenhouse gas. Only methane is much more potent than CO2. Methane has a global warming potential of approximately 25 times that of CO2 over a 100 year period. In other words, over 100 years, 1 ton of methane released into the atmosphere will equal 25 tons of CO2 released.

    Methane can also be captured from landfills and manure at farms and used to produce power. It is done at the landfill in Madison, and there are also a number of anaerobic digesters at farms in Wisconsin. Dane County wants to put in more to help prevent nutrient runoff and restore the lakes.

    As far as capturing and beneficially reusing CO2 from fermentation, could it be captured and contained for use in other industries, like carbonation for soft drinks?

    Anyone aware of lifecycle CO2 studies for the brewing industry? How much CO2 is produced and released during the fermentation process of one batch? How much is net, given that the grains and hops absorb CO2 during the growing season?

    I think I'd be more concerned about CO2 emissions from energy usage and transportation, than from the fermentation process, but I'd love to hear more on this.

  5. Phil and Steve,

    You guys are awesome. I apologize for butchering the science on this stuff. I will definitely try to improve on it in the future.

    I'll look into some CO2 studies and ask around about the lifecycle issues. There was a brewery last year that I briefly wrote about called Adnams ( that claims to be the carbon neutral. The article from that post mentions that the number one carbon contributor was transportation of raw materials.

  6. Phil, you touch on a pretty important point about CO2: the amount produced by fermentation is pretty much completely offset by the amount that the growing barley consumes. One of the biggest uses for captured CO2 is dispensing draught beer. Even if the beer in a keg is naturally carbonated, the entire contents of that keg need to be pushed out with CO2 at a pressure that maintains equilibrium with the gas in the beer. In other words, draught dispense and carbonation use about the same amount of CO2.

    New Belgium conducted a life cycle study of a six-pack of Fat Tire. It found that retail refrigeration was the number one source of carbon emissions and that the levels associated with materials transportat were far lower than expected. For that reason, I have a hard time believing Adnams' claim of carbon neutrality. Anyway, if you email me (my address is in my profile), I'd be happy to send a powerpoint file about it to you. It was from a presentation given at last year's Craft Brewers Conference, so I don't know how they'd feel about posting it on a website.


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