There are two types of beer drinkers. The first type goes to a bar and orders whatever is most familiar, usually a big brand name. The second, well, he or she wants exactly the opposite experience. They want to order something new or innovative. They want a brew that’s local to the city they’re in and brimming with local ingredients. This aficionado wants a beer that they know was handmade (hence the debate over what really defines “craft” in beer). They want a beer that was made with love. And if you fall into that second category, you’re not alone.
The number of craft beers to choose from has increased exponentially in the last few years, as more and more people get excited about small, local breweries with dedicated brew masters creating artisanal beer. It would be safe to say that craft beer is having a real moment as of… well, the past decade, really. And with the growing popularity, breweries are popping up faster than ever. According to the Brewer’s Association, in the past 5 years, the amount of craft breweries in the United States has more than doubled. In 2012, there were a little over 2400 craft breweries in the U.S. Now, there are over 5000.
While this increase in the amount of small, independent breweries helmed by incredible craftsmen is exciting news for the craft beer lover, it’s not all a net positive. Like any product that relies on agriculture, beer can have a major environmental footprint. Growing barley and brewing beer take a lot of water. Production, distribution, and the brewing processes beer goes though (like its multiple boiling and cooling periods) expend a lot of energy. More craft breweries can mean more waste, CO2 emissions, and a significant negative impact on climate change.
So should we feel bad for throwing back several cold ones this summer? Well, we don’t necessarily have to. There are many craft breweries around the country that are just as dedicated to making beer that we can feel good about drinking as they are to creating incredible taste experiences. These breweries lead the way in sustainable growing and brewing practices, pledge to reduce climate change, and are helping the world around them. They’re looking at the craft of brewing beer from a modern, global perspective. And because they see their practices in the context of their larger environmental impact, they’re shifting the way beer is made to line up with a more ethical way of thinking and brewing.
In other words, these are breweries that you want to throw your hard earned money at. Plus, they all provide really delicious, cool drinking experiences. If saving the world always meant drinking a cold lager on the quaint patio of a little brewery in the woods, perhaps more people would be lining up to do so.
Lakefront Brewery (Milwaukee, WI)
There’s a fair amount of brewery competition in Milwaukee (Wisconsin likes beer just a little bit), but what makes Lakefront stand out is their commitment to green practices and organic materials. Because of this, they claimed the title of an awful lot of “firsts.” They were the first brewery in America to be organic certified. And they also basically created the category of gluten free beer by being the first brewery to receive federal approval to make it. They try to source locally, and they were first brewery in Wisconsin and first business in the city of Milwaukee to receive the Travel Green Wisconsin Certification (which recognizes businesses that are reducing their environmental impact).