Beer run revamp

How to be less wasteful when you’re getting wasted

Growlers, shown at right, are less wasteful than bottles or cans, says Daniel Kahn,

Growlers, shown at right, are less wasteful than bottles or cans, says Daniel Kahn,

Buckbean Brewing Company: 1155 S. Rock Blvd., Suite 490; 857-4444,

Great Basin Brewing Company: 846 Victorian Ave., 355-7711;

Silver Peak:124 Wonder St., 324-1864; or corner of First and Sierra streets, 284-3300;

Buckbean Brewing Company

1155 S. Rock Rd.
Reno, NV 89502
Ste. 490

(775) 857-4444

Great Basin Brewing Co.

846 Victorian Ave.
Sparks, NV 89431

(775) 355-7711

Silver Peak Grill & Tap House

135 N. Sierra St.
Reno, NV 89501

(775) 284-3300

Silver Peak Restaurant & Brewery

124 Wonder St.
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 324-1864

Unlike soda or juice, beer is one of those drinks practically designed for multiple-serving consumption. Multiply all those cans and bottles by 52 weeks in a year and what you have is … a lot of empty cans and bottles. We’re not about to suggest giving up beer, but there’s got to be a better way.

One of the first issues to consider is bottle versus can. writer Brendan I. Koerner weighed the issue last March and deduced that bottles are better than cans because they’re made from silica, which is easier on the environment to mine than bauxite, which is part of what cans are made from. However, all that goes out the door, he said, if your beer of choice is being trucked across the country. That’s because the heavier an item is, the more fuel it consumes in transport, and while the average can weighs less than an ounce, an empty bottle is about 6 ounces.

Brewers in Reno say cans win out over bottles. Buckbean Brewing Company, for instance, uses cans because they’re less fuel-intensive to transport, and because they think beer simply tastes better in cans. A blind test taste conducted by New Belgium Brewing Company also concluded this.

“If you’re going to drink beer out of a container, cans are better than bottles,” says Daniel Kahn, co-owner of Buckbean. “They’re so much lighter; there’s a lot less fuel in crating them around. … And it takes a fraction of the energy it costs to recycle a can as it does a bottle.” Even the Slate article backs that up. “The energy savings that accumulate when you recycle a ton of aluminum are far greater than they are for glass—96 percent vs. a mere 26.5 percent,” writes Koerner.

Other methods of buying beer are far less wasteful than either bottles or cans. One of the best: growlers. These are jug-like, half-gallon glass containers sold at Buckbean, Great Basin Brewing Company, Silver Peak and almost any microbrewery. Buy a full one for around $7-$18, then bring it back for a refill for about $3-$8, depending where you go. Some breweries only refill growlers purchased from them, but the above named brewpubs said they’ll refill any type of growler. Is it ecofriendly? “It is as long as you’re willing to drink a half gallon at a time,” less it go flat, says Kahn.

Another idea best shared among friends is a keg. “For one thing, you reuse kegs,” says Matt Johnson, whose Ruthless Reid’s Rye Organic IPA won the homebrewing contest at Sierra Tap House last August. “If you buy a keg of beer, take that home and you have the right system, you can drink that for two months, and it won’t go flat. But if you were to buy the equivalent in six packs, the number of bottles you’re throwing away is pretty outrageous.”

Some say homebrewing may be the greenest way to drink beer. You reuse your bottles, or, if you have a draft system, don’t even use them. Transportation also isn’t much of an issue. However, says Johnson, “If everyone had their own set-up to brew beer at their house, it could be more efficient to have a central location.” And Kahn says homebrewers need a plan for their spent grain, adding that it makes excellent compost.

So to minimize your waste while getting wasted: cans before bottles, growlers before cans, and you might want to invest in some homebrew equipment or a kegerator. Just forget those red plastic cups.