Westerly brewery adopts a more environmentally-friendly beer-making process

Environment

WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) — A Rhode Island brewery has slightly changed their beer-making process, and environmentalists are probably pretty “hoppy” about it.

Grey Sail Brewing in Westerly is now capturing carbon dioxide instead of releasing into the atmosphere.

“Last year, we brewed 9,000 barrels of beer,” Alan Brinton of Grey Sail Brewing said. (For reference, there are two kegs of beer in each barrel.)

Grey Sail’s flagship beer, Captain’s Daughter

Alan and his wife, Jennifer, run the brewery out of the former Westerly Macaroni Manufacturing Company building on Canal Street. They brewed their first batch of beer in 2011.

“Captain’s Daughter is really the beer that put us on the map,” Alan said.

The brewery makes at least a dozen different kinds of beer, including a coffee stout and their Rising Hope IPA.

Grey Sail said all of the proceeds from Rising Hope are given to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

Related: Grey Sail Brewery on Executive Suite

The company has been a good steward to the community. Alan said Grey Sail is the first brewery in Rhode Island to capture carbon dioxide, a gas which can contribute to global warming.

Fermentation tanks at Gray Sail Brewery with a carbon dioxide capture barrel (left)

“All of our beers go through a fermentation process,” Alan explained. “That’s where the yeast eats the sugars that are in the malt and converts those sugars into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide.”

In the craft-brewing industry, the carbon dioxide usually just gets sent out into the atmosphere.

“The more beer you brew, the more carbon dioxide you produce and the larger our carbon footprint is,” Alan said.

Alan came across a carbon dioxide capture system made by Earthly Labs.

During the fermentation process, carbon dioxide is collected and converted into liquid carbon dioxide, which is then stored outside the brewery.

That captured carbon dioxide is used to carbonate the beer later on in the beer-making process.

“You know, I think anything that we can do to help reduce our carbon footprint,” Alan said. “We’re a small company but as a small company, we off gas tens of thousands of pounds a year.”

The carbon dioxide storage system made by Earthly Labs

Capturing and then using the carbon dioxide in this manner would be the same as 1,500 trees absorbing carbon dioxide each year.

Due to the pandemic, the commercial carbon dioxide supply has dropped.

Carbon dioxide is usually captured during ethanol production which is what is put in gasoline.

With less demand for gas, less CO2 is produced, so Alan said by producing their own carbon dioxide, it helps save commercial CO2 costs.

“Certainly there’s a positive business impact, but I think the environmental impacts outweigh all of that,” Alan said.

The first batch of beer using the captured CO2 was made on Jan. 12.

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