According to Beer Serves America, a site sponsored by The Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), the beer brewing industry is an important part of the American economy, employing about 1.8 million Americans and paying them over $71 billion in wages and benefits. And because many of its ingredients include barley, malt, rice, corn, wheat, sorghum, and other grains, beer makers purchase more than $850 million in raw materials from farmers across the country.
But the beer industry and local farmers aren't the only people benefiting from our country's love of beer. The main beneficiaries are us, the consumers. We benefit from beer when we're at home, when we go out to eat, when we go to parties, when we go to sporting events. The list goes on. In fact, in 2008 alone 7.16 billion gallons of beer were consumed in the U.S. Want to know which are America's biggest beer drinking states? Read this article from CNBC.
As much as we all wish we could drink beer every day, buying a six pack in today's economy is expensive. I realized that I was spending almost $20 a week buying beer, and I just didn't have the money every week to do this. My coworker suggested that me and my husband take a homebrew class. He said that it would not only save us money, but it would also give us a fun hobby to do together. What he didn't realize was that I was thinking about the green aspect of the homebrewing process: recycling the beer bottles.
Once we took a 3-hour home beer brewing class at Maryland Homebrew, we were hooked! We bought an English Pale Ale beer brewing kit (about $50) and immediately went home to start our first batch. We had to let it ferment for two weeks, so we drank and saved as many beer bottles as we could. Once we bottled the beer it came out to 42 bottles (7 six packs) of homebrew. If you guestimate that a good six pack of beer costs about $10, right there we had already saved $20!
Here's a picture of the first batch:
After drinking this first batch (which was delicious), we started a second batch. The best thing about it was that we had saved all of our bottles and reused them. All we had to do to sanitize them was to wash them in the dishwasher. We reused all of them, and we continue to reuse them for future batches.
My point in telling you this is to show you the green aspects of home beer brewing. I've discovered four:
- We have reused 42 bottles (give or take a few we've given to friends), which is much better than recycling because it doesn't require anyone picking them up and putting them through a recycling machine (both of which consume gas and energy).
- We used all natural ingredients in the beer (barley, hops, sugar, grains), which supports the farming industry and is much greener than using gross preservatives that were produced in a factory.
- Spent grains are great for compost! They provide extra carbon to balance the nitrogen from other green sources in the mix. Learn how to compost them here.
- We didn't have to drive to the store to buy new beer (which means less pollution to the environment and less money spent on gas).