By Sophie Wilkins

The Bulletin

With Earth Day right around the corner on Wednesday, we should all take a look at how green we’re being. Are we recycling, composting, turning the lights off, etc.?

The more important question to ask is, how green is your beer? (And no, not St. Patrick’s Day green beer.) Here’s a look at the sustainable practices local breweries are using to run their pubs and make their beer.

Power conscious

Worthy Brewing has 117 solar panels on its roof, both solar electric and solar thermal. The solar electric panels produce more than enough electricity to make the beer and run the pub, so the extra gets pushed back onto the public power grid. Typically used to heat swimming pools, the solar thermal panels create hot water, both for brewing beer and the restaurant’s hot-water needs. Water runs through the solar units on the roof and gets pulled into a giant holding tank, which is 125-140 degrees.

“Not only is it saving money itself, but it takes 50 percent less time (to heat),” says Chris Hodge, CEO at Worthy Brewing.

Taking advantage of natural lighting and all the sunlight Central Oregon has to offer, there’s usually no need for the lights to be turned on in the brewery. Worthy also has an energy-efficient heating system that uses the least amount of energy possible to heat the brewery, and a louver system designed to let hot air out in the warmer months and keep the brewery at a cooler temperature, 78-80 degrees maximum. “We have an extremely genius chiller that takes care of all refrigeration for the entire brewhouse. It knows exactly when it needs to be turned on and turned off and goes into chilling mode as needed, per brew schedule,” Hodge said.

Worthy also has a “state-of-the-art” water reclamation system, that uses the run off water from the brewing process. It breaks down 95 percent of the solids without chemicals before it goes back into the brewery’s system.

“We’re kind of betting that Bend will have stricter water restriction rules in the future,” Hodge said.

Spent yeast and grain

When the beer is made and ready to go, spent yeast, hops and grain are left over. Jim Fields, of Fields Farm in Bend, uses Worthy Brewing’s spent yeast for his organic farm, turning it into fertilizer. Worthy’s spent grain is also used as local feed for cattle and pigs.

Deschutes Brewery’s spent grain goes to Borlen Cattle Company in Alfalfa. “We’ve been doing that, nearly since day one,” said Jason Randles, digital marketing manager of Deschutes Brewery. “We buy their beef for the pub, all the burger is from them.”

GoodLife Brewing does a similar trade with Anchor Heart Cattle Ranch in Tumalo, sending spent grain, yeast and hops and in return using their beef in the pub.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Deschutes Brewery has a sustainability committee, with eight representatives from different departments and both of the pubs. This is the third year they’ve had a sustainability report looking at everything the brewery did that was sustainable and comparing it to the previous year.

“We measure all the inputs: water, electricity and gas … We’re trying to lower our impact,” said Randles. “We’re looking at how many gallons of water it takes to brew a gallon of beer.” They recycle all plastic stretch wrap, packaging, cardboard and cans, and get their bottles from a glass factory in Portland that uses 70-percent recycled glass.

Deschutes has also invested in using more salmon-safe certified hops, that come from farms that help preserve the health of streams, watch run-off and use friendlier pesticides. They’ve even started a composting program at the Bend pub, with help from Bend Garbage & Recycling.

“We like taking care of the people, the planet and profit,” Randles said. Deschutes has been donating to the Deschutes River Conservancy for three years, to help restore a billion gallons of water back into the Deschutes River.

GoodLife Brewing Company uses 12-ounce cans made of 98 percent recycled aluminum. “The cans are infinitely recyclable. By disposing of them properly they get melted down and made into new cans, again and again forever,” said Ty Barnett, co-owner of Good Life Brewing Co.

GoodLife also uses a clarifying agent called Biofine, which is a vegan friendly product that helps clarify the beer without filtering.

Both GoodLife and Worthy use a molded six-pack holder made from 98-percent recycled plastic in Eugene by PakTech. These are made of hard plastic “and not the soft ‘dolphin killer’ of the past,” Barnett said.

So on Earth Day, after you’ve cleaned a park or gardened for hours, think about how you can lower your impact, even if it’s just reaching for that green can of beer.

— Reporter: 541-383-0351;