Building the World's First Closed-Loop Brewery

GM's Blog #3

  • December 15th, 2016
  • By Grant Sparling

Do the Right Thing

This has been our unofficial mandate at Cowbell Brewing Co. since day one. Rather than a more conventional start-up routine that would mean days of discussion about mission, vision and values, we simply got to work doing the right thing. It is an organic and true commitment that extends to every area of our craft brewery business.

In October, we announced that Cowbell is building North America’s first carbon neutral craft brewery. We have ongoing, rigorous discussions with Golder Associates and Allan Avis Architects regarding carbon neutrality. We look forward to sharing specific details about the brewery as we continue to build and commission our remarkable facility. We take our commitment to being environmentally sustainable one step further by also designing and implementing the world’s first closed-loop craft brewing facility.

Cowbell’s Closed-Loop Craft Brewing Facility and Environmental Impact

Most beer consumers, including myself until a few years ago, are unaware of how inefficient brewing can be when it comes to water consumption. A typical Ontario craft brewery, for example, uses 10–12 litres of water to produce 1 litre of beer. In a world of growing energy demand, increasing energy prices, and water scarcity, this kind of resource consumption seems out of touch and is certainly at odds with our simple “Do the Right Thing” pledge. At Cowbell, we find it unacceptable for so much water (in the form of effluent) to be dumped down the drain, creating a burden on municipal or city treatment facilities to handle massive spikes in volume.

Instead, Cowbell endeavours to achieve a water to beer ratio of 4:1 — a ratio that is world-class. We aim to accomplish this through brewing best practices and procedural discipline. We plan to install state-of-the-art technology in the brewhouse and cellar, designed and built by Newlands Systems, along with a GEA centrifuge and Krones packaging line. These implementations throughout the process will drastically reduce our resource requirement and CO2 emissions.

Our closed-loop brewery system is twofold:

1. Cowbell’s on-site well allows us to draw our own water from an aquifer that lies beneath our farm. A carbon filter and UV light then treat this water before it enters the brewhouse. 

2. We will treat and manage all effluent leaving the Cowbell brewing facility on-site, with no connection whatsoever to the municipal water treatment plant. We will accomplish this through a series of underground treatment tanks, which neutralize and stabilize the effluent before it is released into our on-site wastewater treatment bed. 

The Cowbell brewery will have no impact on the municipal system, as it will draw brewing water from our own property and release treated water back into the same land.

Environmentally Responsible Breweries for a Sustainable Future

These are exciting times in the Canadian craft beer industry, but more and more breweries opening each year could mean a negative impact on the environment. More craft breweries could cause a dramatic increase in the volume and concentration of effluent that challenges municipal treatment facilities. Brewers are a thoughtful breed, and we appreciate that others have shared their best practices with us as we plan our facility. In this spirit, Cowbell will do the same in return. We plan to share our learnings on our closed-loop brewery and carbon neutral program with other breweries that wish to undertake the same kind of environmental commitment.

We must work to be stewards of the land and we must cooperate and collaborate to ensure a sustainable future for us all.

Thanks for being part of the journey.