Have Your Beer and Drink it Too - Lowering the Carbon Cost of Beer

Scott Osborn, an associate professor of biological engineering at the University of Arkansas is teaming up with Core Brewing Company to reduce the carbon footprint of beer. Northwest Arkansas-based Core brewing company, now Arkansas’ largest, was intrigued by Osborne’s carbonation technique which saves money by using carbon harness from the brewing process and yields better tasting better.

    The amount of CO2 produced in the brewing process is several times larger than the volume of beer produced. When the yeast used in the brewing process consumes sugars and wort, an infusion of malt and grains used in the brewing process, it produces alcohol and and CO2. The more alcohol the yeast produces, the more CO2 it produces.

    Picture a keg of beer. Then picture more kegs, and that’s about how much CO2 is produced in the process. In comparison to other high-emission activities such as the burning of fossil fuels it's not much, but, for those of us unwilling to curtail our love of craft brews, it’s something.

    Osborn, in collaboration with University of Arkansas students has created a tank that has the ability to capture carbon produce in the brewing process, and re-infuse it into the beer much more efficiently. A small amount of beer is pumped from the the carbonation tank and sprayed into a pressure chamber full of carbon dioxide gas. The spray of beer absorbs the gas and forms a liquid layer on the bottom half of the pressurized chamber.

The pressure then pushes the carbonated beer out to of the chamber and back into its original carbonation tank. The pressurized carbon dioxide causes the beer to hold onto a higher concentration of dissolved CO2, higher than in the traditional brewing process. When the small batch of  beer is injected back into the carbonation tank it mixes with the larger batch so that the highly carbonated beer infuses the tank with an extra burst of gaseous bubbles.

Osborn estimates that it will save roughly three times the volume of beer produced worth of carbon, and will cost 60 percent less than the traditional brewing process, which relies on additional carbon added to the beer, which can distort the taste and texture. Osborne’s process uses carbon captured from the fermentation process, which results in dramatically lower emissions, and, Osborne says, a better tasting beer.

  “We wanted to have better control over the product, which will result in better quality” said Osborn.

Better beer? With a lower carbon footprint?

Pour me a pint, please.