Green beer is a tradition on St. Patrick’s Day. But does “green,” eco-friendly beer actually exist? Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto has made significant steps, like bottles thick enough to be reused dozens of times, no glue or paper labels, and biofuel in their delivery trucks. On a smaller scale, microbreweries like Nelson Brewing Company Ltd. in British Columbia brew in small batches, close to home, saving big on transportation, storage and environmental damage.
How can the brewing and selling of beer be made cleaner?
“It begins with ingredients,” says Sybil Taylor, founder of Steam Whistle’s environmental committee. “People are concerned about what they’re putting in their bodies. We start with all-natural ingredients, GMO-free, and no preservatives. Packaging is important, too. Our green bottle really is green,” Nelson brewmaster Mike Kelly agrees.
“All our beer is certified organic,” he says. “With that, you buy into the idea that organic products are cleaner or greener – better for the environment. Better for the farmers, too, because of the sustainability of various ingredients. The beer is simple, and you know what you’re getting.”
Does organic beer taste better than mainstream commercial brews?
“Absolutely,” Taylor enthuses. “There’s a refreshing, clean taste because it’s naturally carbonated. It isn’t gassy, and doesn’t make you feel bloated. I think Canadians are lucky, because there’s an incredible range of selection that’s coming out from the craft brewing industry. People are not loyal to one beer. They might have five or six favourites.”
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“I think it’s more flavourful,” says Kelly. “It’s harder to be organic if you’re a large multinational brewing operation. From a logistical or manufacturing perspective, it’s very difficult for them to make all-organic beers.”
Will beer drinkers actually switch brands to help the environment?
“I think they will,” says Kelly. “It’s really part of a larger movement. My family buys organic food, and we have for years. There’s a 20 per cent growth in organic food sales per year – at least in B.C. There’s more and more organic beers becoming available. The awareness is there, and people think that by supporting organic products – and beer is one of them – they are supporting sustainable business.”
“People are becoming a lot more conscious with their buying power,” Taylor adds. “They want to make a difference. Canadians are very thoughtful about that, and direct their dollars accordingly.”
Canadians and their beer
According to Statistics Canada, the average adult Nova Scotian downs 79.5 liters of beer per year. That ranks eighth among all the provinces and territories. The national average is 85.6 liters per year. The Yukon leads the way – by a huge margin – at 145.1.
According to Statistics Canada, the average adult Ontarian downs 84.3 liters of beer per year. That ranks sixth among all the provinces and territories.
According to Statistics Canada, the average adult Albertan downs 89.8 liters of beer per year. That ranks fourth among all the provinces and territories.
According to Statistics Canada, the average adult British Columbian downs 76.6 liters of beer per year. That ranks twelfth among all the provinces and territories.