Goshen Brewing Co. Comes Up With a Bright Idea for Energy Savings

Goshen Brewing Co. Comes Up With a Bright Idea for Energy Savings

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Craft breweries are conscientious of trying to leave the world a better place than they found it. That includes the physical world, where looking for ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle are important to breweries, and mechanisms to reduce their carbon footprint are constantly being researched and tried.

Little things count just as much as big things, and not everyone has the wherewithal to develop a completely off grid brewery like Big Thorn Farm & Brewery in Georgetown, IL has done. Have you noticed an increase in the recycling cans for the PakTech can holders that are popping up in taprooms now – those make a difference. So do the separating trash cans for recyclable and compostable materials. Giving spent grain to local farms is another way to help out without breaking the bank.

Trying to reduce CO2 emissions in making beer is possible using what is called the Paris Method, where the valve allowing CO2 escape is closed near the end of fermentation and using pump pressure rather than CO2 to push beer from the fermentor to the brite tank. It may seem a small amount of CO2 reduced, but consider how many batches of beer are made in all 7000+ breweries in the US each year. A brewery can repurpose bourbon barrels and staves, they can produce edible (for animals) pak holders, make use of reusable packing (beyond growlers and howlers), or create white roofs to reduce heat capture.

Brewers Association has many publications on sustainability, like this one on reducing solid waste. image credit: Brewers Association

The Brewers Association has a set of resources to help brewers reduce energy use per barrel and production of greenhouse gases (here), but some breweries go farther. The Sierra Nevada facility in Asheville and the New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins are LEED Platinum rated and are recognized as very green from top to bottom. They have zero water waste (as do some other breweries), and use many renewable forms of energy. And it is on this front that we profile the changes at a northern Indiana brewery.

Goshen Brewing Co. Jesse and Amanda Sensenig opened Goshen Brewing Co., known as GBCo. to it’s fans, in 2015 after acquiring the building in 2013. Their location is the old NIPSCO edifice on the Elkhart River downtown, and it needed a good deal of work before they could open. He leased the building from The Goshen Redevelopment Commission (GRC), and their only stipulation besides paying their rent on time) was that they invest at least $200,000 in renovations and improvements on the property (they’ve actually invested much more).

After four years of hard work and making great beer and food, now the Sensenigs (and their team) are ready to take the next step in their ultimate plan to create a zero carbon footprint brewery by going solar. The plans are in place to add solar panels to the roof of the building (including the expansion they made to increase seating recently) and on the south and west walls of the brewpub.

Looking for an alternative energy source for the brewery is in line with the original use of the building, with its having been a power generator in the past. Jesse told me, “Power was produced from the millrace throughout this building in the past as it distributed power around the city, so it is neat to see how this building has changed throughout the years.” Jesse has grown attached to the building, not surprising after how much work they have put into it and how they have connected with the community through it. So it doesn’t come as a shock that he intends to purchase the building when his lease is up, which is his option.

image credit: Goshen Brewing

But at this point they still lease the building, so any changes to it had to be approved by the GRC. That approval came through during the second week of November, and now the changes are ready to be made. The plans for the panels were developed by Wellspring Components, and they assure everyone that the roof and walls are more than adequate to take the added weight, it was never a problem. But Wellspring did their due diligence in the planning to look at the building structurally. Jesse wants the city to approve the plans as well, and then get the work scheduled by December and finished by spring 2020.

The panels will be able to generate 32 kW of power, about 11% of their total usage, should save about $340/month on energy. Importantly, Goshen is footing the bill for this conversion themselves; there are no public or grant dollars going toward their change. In the end, they hope there will be $340 worth of energy a month that won’t come from coal, oil, or other non-renewable sources. They also benefit from federal tax credits and something Jesse called increased depreciation schedules – I’ll take his word that it’s something good for them. In all, they hope to see a return on their investment in six years.

So, is your drinking at Goshen going to be disturbed in the name of energy efficiency? Not in the least. Jesse said “The panels will not impact our normal business in any sense other than we will be offsetting a portion of our electric power throughout the year.” Electricity is electricity, so their electric kettle and hot liquor tank won’t know the difference and no fiddling will need to be done with the production process just because they are switching to partial solar energy.

Jesse wants the panels to be seen by patrons to act as a message for the mission of the brewery and to suggest to them that they could think about things they can do to reduce their footprint. In addition, the panels look kind of cool – a high tech addition to an old timey building. Along with people seeing the panels on the two sides of the building, I asked whether they might name a beer in such a way to both celebrate and draw attention to the solar panels. Jesse answered, “There are no definite plans, but we are always creating something new, so it makes sense that customers will see a beer named appropriately!”

Goshen Brewing’s commitment to the environment goes so far as to ride a bike every year to Indiana Microbrewer’s Festival and can serve beer. image credit: Goshen Brewing

Goshen is committed to reducing their footprint. This move to solar energy isn’t the first step Goshen has taken to reducing their footprint. Even now, all their electricity is generated through wind power on the grid, for which they pay a premium on their energy bill. Also, the majority of their kitchen scraps and spent grains are used for composting and/or are sent to local farms.

It’s also a given that adding the solar panels won’t be the last move that Goshen Brewing makes in order to make a difference. He’s planning on incorporating a CO2 capture system in the future and they are also looking to increase the percentage of waste that gets composted and their ultimate goal is to achieve a zero carbon footprint. Jesse told me, “We believe passionately in local ingredients throughout our brewery and kitchen as the impacts in product and locally can be enormous. Utilizing clean energy resources makes sense on several levels and we felt as though this was the next step to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Now that we are more aware of things breweries are doing in this area, we will start asking more questions and bring more examples to you. But you can help, do you know of things that your favorite breweries are doing to reduce waste and put less stress on the environment? If yes, let us know and perhaps we can put them all together and promote an even bigger movement in the industry. When one brewery sees what another is doing, they can join in.

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