Could beer save the planet?

We’d raise a glass to that.  And here’s how that might work (the “saving the planet” part.  The “raising the glass” part, we figure most people have that down):

You need carbon dioxide, CO2.  In fact, making beer MAKES carbon dioxide (blame it on the yeast).  Now that’s not all bad – it’s carbon dioxide that makes beer carbonated.  But making beer also releases CO2.—and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a big part of global warming.  In fact, making beer produces about three times as much CO2 as it uses up.

But what if, you could capture that “extra” carbon dioxide and keep it out of the atmosphere.  And what if, you could use that same carbon dioxide – to make more beer (among other things)!  That would be pretty sweet.

Also, that would now be pretty possible.

The big industrial breweries (you know the ones we mean) have the money for gear to capture that carbon dioxide.  But that equipment is expensive, and out of reach for the country’s 6,000 or so craft breweries.

Enter science.  Specifically, a Department of Energy team at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  They were actually working to solve a different problem – but came up with a relatively inexpensive way to take carbon dioxide out of the air – a process that can work on the small scale of a microbrewery.  (The key ingredient?  Small capsules of baking soda!)

The good things in this discovery?  1.  Keeps carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere (potentially millions of pounds worth every year).  2.  Allows small breweries to “reuse” that CO2 – instead of actually having to buy it now.  3.  And the extra CO2 breweries don’t need, can be used to make other things (and there’s actually a long list of products that carbon dioxide can be used to make).

And one more good thing.

Wherever you may live – California or Pennsylvania, Michigan or Tennessee.  Whatever your craft beer of choice may be – a pint of Pliny the Elder from the Russian River Brewing CompanyNeshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s Blitzkrieg Hops Double IPA  (and is it just us, or is that a nod to the Ramones there?) – a glass of Beard of Zeus, from Short’s Brewing Company – or maybe a taste of Country Roots (a sweet potato stout!), from Tennessee Brew Works.  Now, it could be good, AND green.

No, not that kind of green.

THAT kind of green.

Beer doesn’t have to carry the whole weight of saving the world, either.  There are lots of ways carbon dioxide gets into the air.  But brewers aren’t the only makers doing creative thinking about carbon dioxide.  There are a lot of new ideas about keeping CO2 from getting into the atmosphere, and even for taking out carbon dioxide that’s already been released.  We’ll tell you more of those stories, in stories to come here.

Meantime, settle in with a mug of Midtown Bock (Under the Radar Brewery, in Houston), and cheers.

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