FDA to Revisit Proposed Regulation of Spent Grain

A couple of months back in a guest post, our good friend and fellow beer attorney Brook Bristow provided a thoughtful overview of proposed regulations from FDA. The potential regs would affect brewers’ ability to sell their spent grain to farmers, requiring strict handling, testing, and record-keeping processes. Since the post, the Brewers Association and the farming industry have spoken out against the regulations. They’ve observed, the cost of compliance could turn brewers away from the practice, putting this beneficial grain into landfills instead of recycling it. Further, the loss of this feed source for farmers could end up raising the prices of goods like meat and milk.

We’re happy to report that FDA seems to be taking note of the brewing industry’s concerns, and is making revisions to the rule. FDA made the following statement:

“We anticipated some of these issues when we requested comment on the proposed rule and are already reviewing the extensive input received from brewers and others. We recognize this is an area that should be addressed and will reach out to those concerned. When the agency proposes revised language for this rule later this summer, we will include more on this issue and welcome comments.”

Hopefully, the new proposed rule will strike a better balance between FDA’s concerns and what is an environmentally friendly and long-proven safe practice.

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Green Brewing Initiatives with Emerging Wastewater Technology

WaterWorld. Yes, there’s that one movie, but the WaterWorld we’re talking about is actually an online resource that reports on global water and wastewater news and technology. The website frequently covers developments in the brewing industry, including legislation affecting water quality standards. And, recently, the site caught our eye with its nice overview of water-related green brewing technologies. The article and site are worth checking out.

Right now, there’s growing interest in technology called membrane filtration. There’s also interest in bioelectric technology, and two California-based breweries—Lagunitas and Bear Republic—have already installed the EcoVolt system that offers up a 25% annual return on investment and generates more than 10% of a brewery’s water requirements with recycled water. Yet, much of the cutting-edge technology the article details is expensive, and may not lead to significant reductions in a brewery’s overall water needs—yet. Still, for those interested in improving their brewing efficiencies and doing the right thing by the environment, it’s worth paying attention to what’s out there, keeping tabs on how the technology progresses and how it’s working for the early adopters. This is especially so for existing and would-be brewers operating in particularly water-stressed regions.

Water, as we all know, is a vital but contentious resource. Mark Twain said it best years ago: “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” And, as states become thirstier, improvements in green brewing technologies are not just good for the conscience—they’re a way to shield your business should dwindling supplies begin to create competing in-state demands.

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Washington Legislators Consider Bottle Bill to Encourage Recycling

Washington's Bottle Bill is aimed at reducing sights like this one. If passed, it would affect the brewing industry.
Washington’s Bottle Bill aims to reduce sights like this. If passed, it would affect the brewing industry.

As environmentally conscious as leaders in the brewing industry are, deep down, we all know that bottles and packaging don’t always wind up in recycling bins. For Washington brewers, however, a “Bottle Bill” initiative before legislators is poised to help make sure bottles do end up where they belong.

Before we discuss it, a bit of history. Back in the 1970s, states like Washington and Oregon took two different paths in efforts to reduce waste and encourage recycling. Washington elected to tax big-time waste producers, generating $7 million or so a year in revenues that go toward recycling-awareness efforts. Oregon, however, went the route now commonly known as the Bottle Bill. The state encourages recycling by paying consumers to return bottles to certain outlets. Some stats estimate that this policy can cut litter anywhere between 34 and 64 percent. That’s a dent.
Senate Bill 6498 is Washington’s proposed Bottle Bill, which would offer a redemption rate of at least 5 cents per bottle. Dealers, which “means every person in this state who engages in the sale of beverages in beverage containers to a consumer” would be required to buy back bottles, as long as they fit certain criteria—being the kind the dealer already sells, are clean, etc. Bottles would also need to be clearly embossed, stamped, or labeled with the redemption rate.
We’ll see how far SB 6498 makes it down the pike, and what impact that means on day-to-day ops at the brewery. Wherever it lands, we do applaud legislative efforts that take our environment into account.

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Help Build Asheville’s New Treasure – The New Belgium Brewery

Asheville’s newest gem is getting ready for construction

Well, most of you may know that I began my legal career in construction. A central focus of my legal services includes green building, a topic that I have covered several times in conjunction with brewery law.


The City of Asheville, North Carolina has a lot to celebrate in the world of beer. New Belgium Brewing, Sierra Nevada Brewing and Oskar Blues each plan on building brewing facilities and brewpubs in the area over the next few years. Oskar Blues will be up and running by December – the other two to follow by 2015.


New Belgium’s project is one for the ages. It will completely revitalize a massive brownfield in the city’s River Arts District, convert unused riverfront into accessible green space, and force the construction of bikeways throughout the area. In addition, New Belgium’s project is sustainable, gorgeous and will support growth. Read more about it on their website, or check on this quick summary.


Despite its opening being years away, construction starts soon. The design team is hosting a meeting for all interested subcontractors and suppliers on Thursday October 30, 2012. If you are interested in helping build this modern majesty of brewing integrity – please be there and submit your pre-qualification documentation. Here is an article with the details.





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Sustainable Brewing Is Not Just A Good Idea – It’s Happening All Around The Country

Going solar can vastly improve your energy bills.


The two things that drive my professional career – sustainability and brewing. As a green building attorney, I have spent my entire career following building that trends that make buildings more efficient, more effective and cleaner. The past few years have shown great examples of the integration of green building and brewing. Needless to say – I’m pretty excited about it.


If you don’t think that sustainable brewing is here yet, check out this short film over at the Beer Activist. Breweries like DC Brau, the featured brewer in the video, are becoming more energy and recycling conscious. Brewers are now condensing steam, reusing cooling water, using graywater for cleanup, collecting rainwater, and turning to solar thermal to heat their kettles.


One of the best examples of green brewing is Brewery Vivant, the assumed first ever LEED-Certified brewery. Vivant is located in Grand Rapids, MI and not only purchased Renewable Energy Credits to replace energy it consumes, but also follows a number of smart and sustainable business practices in running it’s operation. Utilizing low-travel local materials and packaging beer in cans are just two of the ways that Vivant is reducing it’s carbon footprint.


Here in Seattle, Big Al Brewing and Hales Ales have each invested in solar thermal to heat their breweries. Each of the installs were performed by Seattle’s Net Zero Impact and feature similar environmental benefits. Energy incentives subsidized the initial investment in the system, which will pay itself off in roughly 2.5 years.


Going green is not hard. From small breweries like Vivant to large craft brewers like New Belgium and Abita (each have industry-leading green brewing elements), we are seeing more devotion to saving water and finding affordable energy.


Brewers in planning? Consider some of these devices in your business plan and talk to your attorney about whether incentives might be available to you.





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