FREEPORT — Beer is more than just a mixture of water, grain, hops and yeast.
Brewers know that each batch needs energy — the electricity to power the brewing system, to control the climate to heat the water, to bottle the beer, to refrigerate the finished product, to transport it where it needs to go. Behind every bottle of beer is a substantial carbon footprint — something that Maine Beer Company says it wants to reduce.
Maine Beer Company launched a new clean energy initiative on Thursday to help increase renewable energy in the community and across the state.
The company has 194 solar panels on site — a 50 kilowatt system — that according to Anne Marisic, marketing and events manager, powers its tasting room energy and a small percentage of production needs. By 2022 the company hopes to have more panels at the facility to meet 60-70% of its total energy needs. By 2030 they hope to generate more clean energy than they use.
Until that time, Maine Beer Company is working with local nonprofits like Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment, an organic farm and educational center in Freeport, to support clean energy installations offsite. In the coming years, Wolfe’s Neck hopes to go 100% solar, according to Dave Herring, executive director. With a $25,000 donation, Maine Beer Company supported one-sixth of the most recent solar array project at Wolfe’s Neck’s new organic dairy facility; a project with an estimated annual cost savings of $20,000 according to Marisic.
“For us, it doesn’t matter where the clean energy is generated. We want to support and encourage others to make clean energy a priority and a reality — however we can do that is a win,” said Steve Mills, CEO of Maine Beer Company. “Our hope is that the Clean Energy Initiative can do good while also inspiring other companies, and individuals, throughout Maine to consider more clean energy alternatives as a way of life.”
Maine Beer Company partnered with 1% for the Planet, a nonprofit organization that encourages companies to donate 1% of annual profits to environmental nonprofits. So far, the Maine Beer Company has given more that $500,000 and plans to donate another $150,000 in 2019.
“We’re living in a world where we need to be much more proactive,” Marisic said, adding that while the Wolfe’s Neck project does not have a direct financial benefit to the brewery, “wherever we’re creating clean energy, that’s a good thing.”
The brewery is looking into other green initiatives too, she said, like a system to recapture carbon dioxide produced during brewing that would allow them to clean it and reuse it to power draft lines.
In March, Maine Beer Company joined 11 other Maine breweries to form the Maine Brewshed Alliance, a coalition of brewers dedicated to protecting Maine’s waters.
Maine brewers understand “a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand,” Kristin Jackson, a representative for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said at the time.
Sean Sullivan, executive director of Maine Brewers’ Guild, said in an email that there are 144 licensed breweries in Maine, appearing in each of the 16 counties. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, 19 new breweries sprouted in the state. The midcoast has Moderation Brewing, Flight Deck and Black Pug, as well as Bath Brewing Co., Maine Beer Co., Sea Dog and Gritty McDuff’s to name a few.
A recent study by the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association found that in 2018, the Maine beer industry had a $2 million economic output and directly and indirectly employed more than 15,000 Mainers.
Portland’s Allagash Brewing Company, also part of the Maine Brewshed Alliance, has its own solar array that has produced around 1,113 Megawatt hours of energy since 2016, which Allagash officials said is equivalent to planting 4,475 trees. As the industry continues to grow, more companies like Maine Beer Co. and Allagash, larger brands like New Belgium and even Coors are stepping up to try to offset their contribution to Carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is a constant conversation with brewers and people in our business,” Marisic said, “We’re hoping to be stewards of how you can do this.”