Brewers and craft beer drinkers looking to reduce their carbon footprint are in luck.
Lolo Peak Brewery is set to become Montana’s first carbon-dioxide-recycling brewery — capturing the CO2 produced in the brewing process to carbonate and serve its beer.
Missoula-based COBrew, the company building the recycling system, will co-host an informative beer tasting at the brewery Monday evening to meet with other brewery owners and beer drinkers to show off the technology and the beer produced with it.
After a few months of perfecting the design of the CO2 recycler at Lolo Peak Brewery, the technology will be available to other breweries looking to cut their emissions and spend less on CO2 needed for carbonation.
Lolo Peak head brewer Paul Roys said he was happy to move craft-brewing toward a more sustainable practice.
“The cost savings aren’t huge, but if the sustainability makes me feel really good, why wouldn’t I want to do it?” Roys said. “Producing all that carbon dioxide and letting it just float away is essentially throwing out an ingredient. Being able to reuse it and make it full circle is a huge benefit.”
The brewing process uses yeast to turn sugars into alcohol, producing carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Most brewers, from home-brewers to multinational corporate breweries, simply vent off the gas, despite needing to buy CO2 to carbonate their beer.
Home-brewers who produce a few gallons of beer at a time often carbonate their beer by allowing some fermentation after bottling, keeping the fizz trapped in the beer. The process is imprecise and not suited to larger operations.
COBrew founder Taylor Woods said some larger breweries, including Alaskan and Sierra Nevada, utilize similar technology to capture their CO2, but COBrew’s system is tailored toward small- to medium-sized breweries.
The COBrew technology captures the gas coming out of the 600 gallon fermentation containers, filters it to food-grade CO2, and stores it in tanks to be used for carbonation and pressurizing kegs on tap.
The brewery’s AlpenGlow wheat ale is the first beer made with the COBrew technology, but Roys said it will take about two months before all of Lolo Peak’s beers are made with recycled carbon dioxide.
The Monday night unveiling from 5 to 9 p.m. will include free COBrew pint glasses, koozies and stickers for the first 100 attendees, Woods said. There will also be growler fill raffles and tours of the brew room.
Woods, a University of Montana business school alum, said the type of people who support craft breweries are generally the same people with sustainability in mind, so it makes sense from a business standpoint to focus on sustainable brewing.
“It comes from customer demand, really,” Woods said. “People are willing to put their money where their ideals are, so we want to give them a product they can search out and request."