Thursday, 26 April 2007

Beer talking again

Official: beer is the answer: New ideas from microbreweries are leading the way for sustainable business
Chris O'Brien, The Guardian,
Thursday April 26, 2007

Throughout history, beer has been at the vanguard of revolutions. Brewing enabled the agricultural revolution. It was integral to the scientific and technological innovations that drove the industrial revolution. Today, beer could be at the centre of another revolution: sustainability.

Industrialised globalisation in many ways reaches its logical extreme in the shape of the brewery: corporate-led globalisation consolidates power and wealth into ever fewer hands, all the while burning fossil fuels and stamping out diversity. In recent years, big breweries around the world have managed to continue their unfettered growth through mega-mergers, the only path of growth left. Belgium's Interbrew merged with Brazil's AmBev to control almost a sixth of the world's beer market. Likewise, Molson merged with Coors, and South African Breweries merged with Miller, creating behemoth beer corporations. Anheuser-Busch (makers of Bud) produces one in every 10 commercial beers globally and controls half of the American market.

However, brewers around the world, particularly in America, are once again fomenting a revolution, this one led by a band called the anti-globalisation crowd, but more accurately termed the sustainability movement. Sustainability embraces the values of community and equality and maximises the benefits of science and technology, while respecting the sanctity of nature.

Corporations are the foremost operators in the unsustainable global economy. By contrast, the new wave of small local breweries and brewer pubs are innovating closed-loop systems that move away from wasteful, polluting, oil-dependent business practices.

The craft beer movement is putting into practice a sustainability model called "bioregionalism". Brewers are using small-scale technologies, developing local markets, reducing packaging and shipping, making use of locally available materials, and reducing overall waste through eco-industrial design.

In under 20 years, the number of breweries in America has risen from 44 to 2,000, nearly all of which are small-scale. They are producing beers of every known style and creating radical new ones using every conceivable flavouring. A similar localisation of brewing is happening in Britain. It is hard to get more micro than the new Colonsay Brewery, which last week began deliveries of beer across the tiny Hebridean isle (population 100). Homebrewing is also experiencing explosive growth as people take brewing back into the kitchen.

Microbrewing, by definition small-scale and locally oriented, is inherently more sustainable. But many of these brewers are also intentionally innovating new environmental practices and working to build strong local communities. New Belgium Brewing in Colorado is one of many breweries to run entirely on wind power. The Keystone Brewery in Dorset uses almost entirely locally sourced ingredients and is developing solar heating. Pubs such as the Duke of Cambridge in north London exclusively serve organic beers by Pitfield Brewing.

Could beer save the world? In the age of globalisation, we are capable of the wholesale destruction of life on Earth, not to mention to the elimination of unique beer cultures around the world, especially in industrialising countries. We are in grave need of some life-affirming energy to counterbalance this penchant for mass annihilation. With global climate change dominating the headlines, military debacles pitting the west against the Middle East, and the wealth gap increasing, we face questions about the very survival of our species. And beer can provide some of the answers.

· Chris O'Brien is the author of Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World


Mari Carmen said...

Interesting... Ummmm, although I don't like beer.
Sincerely, I think there is no solution for us, for the world. I'm afraid I'm a bit pessimit about human beings :(

Anyway, today is a wonderful day. It's raining, yes, but I don't mind. The fields and the gardens are fantastics.

Maybe today you'll drink a beer, to save the world :)

Have a good day.

Anglonoel said...

Mari- there is a whole (sometimes)weird and (often) wonderful world of beer out there. If you are looking for a beer that makes you think "that's never beer!" try a fruit beer. The Belgians make a lot of them and it is increasingly being copied across the planet. There are also some excellent chocolate beers in existence.


Mari Carmen said...

Chocolate beers? Really? Maybe I should try that :)

By the way, did you know that I have another blog? It's:

Look at it, if you have time :)

Thanks :)

Mari Carmen said...

Hope you are having a happy and sunny Sunday. Here... the fields are full of flowers and my garden has plenty of roses.

Bye, Noel :)