Remember the old college adage “Save Water, Drink Beer”?
What, that wasn’t a thing? Hmmmmmmmm…
In any case, the folks at Allagash Brewery take the phrase to a whole new level. These guys have sustainability down pat. From sending spent grain to local farmers for use in cattle feed, to treating their own water before it’s discarded, to powering the brewery with 100% wind power, these practices make the Allagash brand pretty unique. And their Belgian-esque beer? Pretty damn good.
Just a few minutes’ drive from downtown Portland, Maine, tucked away behind a patch of trees, I came upon a cool industrial façade made of simple corrugated steel.
Once I stepped inside and learned the story, the brewery wasn’t so simple anymore. They go to serious lengths to be a model of sustainability in their conservation-conscious community. Just inside the entry, the retail store was my first encounter with the eco-friendly operation. Most of their wearable merchandise is made from local materials so as to minimize their carbon footprint – perfect for my occasional hippie tendencies.
I signed up for one of the hourly tours, but got there about a half hour before for a free tasting. The super-friendly staff, intensely proud of their green reputation, answered all my questions about the nature of their operations. I probably became ever-more annoying as I kicked back at the bar and picked their brains, but (1) it was my second brewery of the day, (2) I’m a lightweight, and (3) those four 3 ounce samples quickly made me chatty!
Several details about their unique practices emerged on the tour. Like the fact that once they extract the sugary wort from their grain, they don’t dump what’s left. Rather than being landfill-bound, they distribute it to nearby farmers for use in cattle feed. An impressively small amount of waste leaves the place, right down to the waste water that’s treated on-site. They even recycle used whiskey barrels that would otherwise be discarded. That’s right, they use old Jim Beam barrels to store and ferment some of their beer. Seriously, what could be better??
Well, the beer itself, I guess. I’m not a connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m not into beer that’s super complex or bold in flavor. So the Allagash White was for me. Smooth and not too in-your-face as far as hoppyness, just a simple wheat beer with Allagash’s own touch. But for those who are connoisseurs, the variety and complexity of their many other offerings shouldn’t disappoint.
Back to the whole sustainability thing. I was told to stay tuned… Apparently, they have a lot more in the works for the days ahead, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they choose to give back on an even greater scale. In the meantime, I’d definitely recommend visiting, throwing on one of their souvenir t-shirts (100% organic cotton, of course) and having a look around next time you’re in town.
It’s a brew you can feel good about drinking (not that anyone should ever feel bad about drinking cold, delicious, hoppy, head-y craft beer…), like you’re really contributing to a great cause. What can I say, I’m easily inspired when I’m tipsy…
Save water, drink beer. I knew it was a thing!
If you go
Allagash Brewery is easy to find by car at 50 Industrial Way, Portland, Maine 04103. They’re open every day 11am-6pm, with tours hourly (and sometimes half-hourly). You may want to reserve a spot for the tour at peak times/seasons – and check out their site for a schedule of brewery events, too. Enjoy!