Sierra Club: Top Six Colorado Breweries that Will Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

“Coloradans are known for loving a well crafted beer. We demonstrate that dedication to fine drafts by having the second highest number of craft breweries in the nation – behind only California. And as we celebrate the season of Oktoberfests and fall brews, it’s not hard to find the perfect libation to sate your thirst. But not all craft beers are created equal, and there’s an environmental cost to the process of creating, packaging, and shipping even the finest pumpkin lager. Thankfully, local companies are rising to the challenge, and have been doing so for some time.


Local breweries and a national nonprofit trade group called the Brewer’s Association are already working to make sustainable beer an appealing choice for all.  At the Sustainable Brewery Summit in Denver, which occurred in August,  these groups came together to find lasting solutions. In lieu of federal policies to hold corporations accountable for protecting our clean air and water, local businesses across Colorado are taking a bite out of the pie in creating a sustainable future. It’s exciting to see titans of the growing craft beer industry in Colorado invest in a model that will protect both people and the planet. So we wanted to give a shout out to the top six sustainable local breweries across the state that are working to craft a seasonal beverage that tastes good on the pallet and are good for the planet.


  1. Great Divide Brewing Co.

Great Divide has exponentially grown in production since its creation in 1994, and is now a Denver staple for many a resident. It’s also an industry leader in practicing sustainability. Great Divide Events and Marketing Intern Maya Oren comments on their efforts saying, “we are continually working to improve our environmental efforts via things like our intensive recycling program, storm water protection system, all brewery sustainability education, and our smart building, which has been programmed to keep our electricity, water and other utilities to the minimum necessary level for our operation.” If you’re curious to try their creations for yourself, a good time would be during the upcoming Yeti Awareness Week, which runs from November 14th-18th.


  1. Ska Brewing

Live near Durango or are planning a trip out to the area? If so, we recommend a quick hop over to Ska after enjoying some fall exploration in San Juan National Forest. Ska brewing is impressive in their approach to sustainability: the brewery is powered by 100% wind, the bar tops and tables are recycled from old bowling alleys, and the walls are insulated with layers of recycled blue jeans. Ska also reuses spent grains from the brewing process as compost in their beer garden, all working together to make Ska a great example of an environmentally focused brewery.


  1. Upslope Brewing 

As a speaker at the Sustainable Brewery Summit, Upslope practices a variety of sustainable tactics that make them a contender on this list. For example, they use 100% recycled cardboard in their packaging, and utilize LED lights and motion sensors throughout their warehouse to cut down on electricity consumption. These may be small changes compared to other initiatives, but each effort adds value for both the companies bottom line and the planet. Upslope has also partner with Trout Unlimited, whose mission is “To conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.” by donating 1% of all Upslope Craft Lager can sales to the organization.


  1. Left Hand Brewing

“Brewed on the banks of the mighty St. Vrain,” Left Hand is well-known for its Milk Stout Nitro, but perhaps less known is its commitment to being a company focused on green practices. Adam Lawrence, Lead Brewer, believes that sustainability is a significant aspect of Left Hand’s business model, and helps bolster other aspects of their over all practices stating, “we are heavily focused on building community and being responsible stewards of the environment (as well as) investing in our employee-owners’ development, economic well-being and long-term financial health… (otherwise) it would not be possible to do what we do.” Left Hand’s success shows that investing in sustainable solutions can more than pay off.


  1. Odell Brewing Co. 

Up north in Fort Collins, you’ll find an environmentally friendly gem in Odell Brewing, another presenter at the Sustainable Brewery summit. Odell is innovative in their methods for dealing with byproducts responsibly, and the company  focuses on both water and energy conservation as key aspects of their mission, stating, “While payback is considered in all investments we make, we place a higher value on what we’re accomplishing for the environment in which we live.” The brewery also plans to work with their home city of Fort Collins to see if spent yeast can be used as a chemical-free method for treating city water. Odell’s goal to be “zero landfill by 2020” demonstrates a serious commitment to the future.


  1. Bristol Brewing Co.

Located in a century Colorado Springs elementary school named Ivywild, Bristol is utilizing its unusual home-base further its sustainability goals. According to their website, they “chose to renovate and reuse a 101-year-old building for our operations rather than build something new. Being mindful of our impact is just another way we like to give back.” The brewery also rewards customers for returning six pack containers for reuse. In this case, what’s good for Bristol’s bottom line is also good for the consumer’s karma.


The breweries on this list are just a small sampling of the many individuals and companies striving to do what they love in a way that is responsible for both the planet and local communities. One of the best ways to catch the last of the warm weather days this fall might be with a cool beer in hand. Where will you go?

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