Beer helps power Alaskan brewery

An Alaskan brewery has installed a unique boiler system in order to cut its fuel costs. It purchased a $1.8 million furnace that burns the company's spent grain — the waste accumulated from the brewing process.
By JOSHUA BERLINGER Modified: February 7, 2013 at 9:38 pm •  Published: February 8, 2013
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— The Alaskan Brewing Co. is going green, but instead of looking to solar and wind energy, it has turned to a very familiar source: beer.

The Juneau-based beer maker has installed a unique boiler system in order to cut its fuel costs. It purchased a $1.8 million furnace that burns the company's spent grain — the waste accumulated from the brewing process — into steam, which powers the majority of the brewery's operations.

Company officials now joke they are serving “beer-powered beer.”

What to do with spent grain was seemingly solved decades ago by breweries operating in the Lower 48. Most send the used grain, a good source of protein, to nearby farms and ranches to be used as animal feed.

But there are only 37 farms in southeast Alaska and 680 in the entire state as of 2011, and the problem of what to do with the excess spent grain — residual malt and barley — became more problematic after the brewery expanded in 1995.

The Alaskan Brewing Co. had to resort to shipping its spent grain to buyers in the Lower 48. Shipping costs for Juneau businesses are especially high because there are no roads leading in or out of the city and everything has to be flown or shipped in. However, the grain is a relatively wet byproduct of the brewing process, so it needs to be dried before it is shipped — another heat intensive and expensive process.

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