Friday 31 March 2023

Earth Day IPA


April 22nd, 2023, marks the fifty-third anniversary of the first Earth Day, and represents a chance for all of us to reflect on the personal, and professional, footprint we’re destined to leave behind on the planet. We’re going through a period of growing realisation that change is necessary (on many fronts) if those footprints aren’t to trample the chances of survival for our descendants, and, as a brewing industry, we’re acutely aware that we have changes to make too. But how can the small/medium sized brewer shoulder their fair share of the burden? What tactics can we employ to reduce our impact on the planet, and can they align with our quest to produce the perfect pint? The brewers from GADDS’ and TOAST got together to investigate, and made a plan to produce a tasty modern cask pale ale, whilst employing a dozen carbon reducing techniques:

1. Walking/cycling/busing to work. An easy win: leaving the car at home for short journeys is a no-brainer, so that’s what we did.

2. Breadcrumbs: the guys at TOAST are pioneering the use of waste bread (there’s an eyewatering amount, daily) in brewing. We replaced 5% of our high footprint malted barley with negative footprint waste bread crumb.

3. Raw barley: the malting process adds footprint to barley, so we replaced a further 5% of our malted barley with raw barley. We can’t replace it all, because a) we need enzymes from the malt, so it wouldn’t work, and b) even if it did work, it wouldn’t taste like anything resembling a modern cask pale ale (ie, the brief).

4. Super Pale Malt: after barley is germinated by the maltster it needs to be dried in an oven, where it picks up a bit of colour. Super pale malt isn’t dried as much, using less energy in the process, and making our beer super pale!

5. Reduced boil time: this would have been a great idea, but we realised it wouldn’t produce a clear pint, and we couldn’t find a way round that in our brewery. We could make a cloudy beer this way, but that wasn’t in the brief either. So we binned the idea for now and will spend sometime pondering it. It would reduce our energy requirements significantly.

6. High gravity brewing: here the idea is to brew our sugary wort a bit stronger (5%), and water it down a little after the boil, saving on the energy used for boiling. This is relatively common practice and A Good Idea (but don’t take it too far, or the beer will be rubbish – Ed).

7. Using locally grown hops: hops grown within 30 miles, and delivered in bulk once a year, direct from the farm, have the edge over those shipped from afar in small amounts. This is common practice at GADDS where we use a lot of the fabulous East Kent Golding variety, grown up the road.

8. Using new UK hop varieties: ‘modern’ cask pale ale suggest some big, punchy flavours often found in hops grown in the USA, New Zealand or Australia. However, the UK hop industry, known primarily for its exquisitely balanced, classically understated hops, is fighting back, breeding some exciting new varieties full of intensity. We used Harlequin (passion fruit and peach) and Jester (grapefruit and tropical fruit) to flavour our IPA, and they were grown right here in the UK.

9. Solar: in brewing we control fermentation temperatures using electricity hungry chilling machines, and the stronger the sunshine and the warmer it gets, the more the machines work and use energy. Luckily for us, this suits solar panels perfectly as they work best when that sun is out. At GADDS’, on a reasonable day, all our electricity is provided by the solar array on the roof.

10. Carbon dioxide capture: all alcoholic fermentation produces CO2 at a rate of about 1 gram per gram of alcohol, so fermenting your evening litre of ale releases about 35 to 40 grammes into the atmosphere. But, this CO2 was absorbed from the atmosphere by the growing barley, so it’s classed as ‘biogenic’ and doesn’t increase your carbon footprint. That said, capturing the CO2 from fermentation is a super way of removing it from the atmosphere, so that’s what we do at GADDS’. Once it’s cleaned, purified and condensed into liquid in a mobile storage tank we take it over to the local bottling company, to be put back into beer.

11. Enzymatic cleaning: as every thoroughly modern householder knows, enzymes are the boss of cleaning these days, and they’re moving into the brewing industry. They’re very good at breaking proteins and starches down, and they’re environmentally friendly. Historically we brewers have used caustic soda at high temperatures – it’s quite a nasty chemical, with a high footprint, and we’re very glad to be seeing the back of it. All casks of Earth Day IPA will be cleaned with enzymes, as will the fermentation vessel.

12. Vegan finings: for the last hundred years or so brewers and wine makers have clarified their drinks using a protein derived, typically, from fish. We don’t know what the footprint of the fish is, but we do know they’d prefer to be left unmolested, so we’ve found an alternative method to drop the yeast out making Earth Day IPA vegan friendly.

13. For good measure, and to make up for not reducing our boil time (see 5), all Earth Day IPA will be sold in casks for consumption in the pub. This avoids single use packaging, stores the beer at 12°C in the pub (instead of 6°C in your fridge) and gets you all into your local hostelry, so you can switch the central heating off! Win:win.

We’re not claiming this beer will save Earth, but it was a lot of fun and allows us to open discussions on how we can all help to make a difference. Ours is the most ancient of industries, steeped in history and carried out using artisanal methods bestowed on us by previous generations. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change, and adapt, whilst retaining the fundamental way we make beer, and the consequent fabulous pint. So, whilst you sup on a pint or two of Earth Day IPA, raise a glass and TOAST everyone determined to make a difference. 

Here’s to change! 



PS Look out for Earth Day IPA in all the usual local East Kent hostelries of choice from around the 14th of April. Or come to our tasting, tickets here.

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