UN Sustainable Development Goal

Responsible Consumption and Production


user photo Submitted by James Coffelt
Date published: 6 Nov 2017

New Belgium Brewery in the Spotlight

James G Coffelt AIM2FLOURISH New Belgium Brewery Name: New Belgium Brewery Type: Brewery/beer company with nationally distributed products Location: Fort Collins, CO; Asheville, NC UN Global Goals: Clean water, clean energy, responsible consumption & production Interviewee: Katie Wallace, MAPP; Assistant Director of Sustainability at NBB Date: 10/03/1992 New Belgium Brewery would be considered radically sustainable and environmentally sensitive in every other industry; instead, it is pioneering the way beer is brewed from its main headquarters in Fort Collins, Colorado. Following from co-founder Jeff Lebesch’s Belgian roots, Jeff (an electrical engineer by trade but brewer by vocation) has literally embedded environmental consciousness and general sustainability in the ethos of New Belgium Brewery, in addition to be 100% employee owned. Specifically, New Belgium Brewery’s internal energy tax and water processing plant that utilizes microbe-scrubbing to produce methane gas. From Day 1 of New Belgium Brewery, sustainability and environmental awareness was foremost in Jeff and his wife Kim’s mind. The first brewing attempt resulted in Jeff placing a tin lid over the brew kettle to capture the steam and utilize the heat from it to heat the incoming water for the next batch. The energy tax was decided via employee vote early on in the company’s history (made official in the company’s charter in 2013). Employees willingly turned down a year-end bonus that would then be contributed to an energy tax fund. An employee-elected committee meets to evaluate potential ideas on what to spend the energy tax fund on with the very first investment being a wind and solar energy technology purchase. This Resource Management Team decides on 3-5 projects per year on what to spend the fund on with an internal portal where all employee can submit ideas to be considered. The fund is replenished via internal taxation on the amount of purchased electricity Starting in 2002, the Fort Collins Process Water Treatment Plant began to utilize anaerobic microbe in treating their waste water that is washed out and contaminated following the brewing process and considered ‘waste water’. The microbe treatment processes the waste particles in the water and releases a methane-rich gas as a byproduct to ‘cleaning’ the water. This methane by-product is then pumped back into the brewery and utilized as a natural gas fuel for the CHP and co-gen engines that preheat water for the pre-brewing process. The treated water is sent back to the city water treatment plant with 50% used in the city’s system and discharged into the river. An additional newer AVL Process Water is under construction that is expected to generate greater methane levels for and correlated with a decrease in external energy consumption. A portion of the water is reused at the bottling line. Industry wise, New Belgium Brewery is setting the standard with co-chairing the Brewers’ Association and openly invites both top competitors and small startup breweries to tour their facilities and ‘consult’ on their sustainability success stories. They have been at the forefront of spreading best practice advice to the beverage industry in general and openly involve themselves at conferences that collaborate and share information, all outside the bounds of the beverage industry market competition.