A $37,000 grant from the city of Iowa City is going toward the purchase of new brewing equipment to help one local brewery close its sustainability loop while making what they hope will be better-tasting beer. The grant will allow Big Grove Brewery — with locations in Iowa City and Solon and upcoming locations in […]
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A $37,000 grant from the city of Iowa City is going toward the purchase of new brewing equipment to help one local brewery close its sustainability loop while making what they hope will be better-tasting beer.
The grant will allow Big Grove Brewery — with locations in Iowa City and Solon and upcoming locations in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids — to buy CiCi equipment from Austin-based startup Earthly Labs. CiCi CO2 (or carbon dioxide) capture technology was developed specifically for craft breweries to reduce emissions and costs. Big Grove is the first brewery in Iowa to use such technology.
Presently, Big Grove’s traditional ale takes around two to three weeks from fermentation to packaging to be complete, said E-Commerce and Content Director Rob Miller. Grain is milled and mixed with hot water to create a wort. That wort is moved to a fermentation tank for several weeks, where CO2 is expelled and yeast, sugar and water convert liquid to alcohol.
But the new equipment will modify the process and allow the Big Grove team to reuse the expelled CO2 by capturing, filtering and retaining it in a recovery tank so it is saved for later in the brewing process when the alcohol is moved to a Brite Tank. The change means it is no longer necessary for Big Grove to purchase thousands of pounds of CO2. Last year, the company was forced to buy 112,000 pounds of CO2 that needed to be trucked in from a manufacturer.
“CO2 in beer is what allows it to have its fizzy head on it,” said Mr. Miller. “You know when beer doesn’t have proper CO2 because that’s when you’re drinking a flat beer. It’s been said that oxygen is the enemy of good beer.”
If oxygen is the enemy of beer, Big Grove is choosing to treat sustainability inefficiencies as its own enemy of an environmentally-conscious business.
“Each year, we want to take on one major project that makes us more sustainable and reduces our carbon footprint, part of a 10-year goal,” Mr. Miller said. “This is our first big project in that regard.”
The long-term plan, he says, is for Big Grove to buy a farm to grow its own hops and barley, but for now, the CiCi equipment will touch every beer that goes into a package from Big Grove.
Once it arrives, the new equipment will be used at the Iowa City brewery. The other facilities are small-batch and low-barrelage facilities and “wouldn’t justify the investment,” Mr. Miller said.
“It’s really tangible,” he added. “Often the challenge with going green is people can’t see it or taste it. With this, you can see the CO2 blowing off, we sometimes call it being burped off in the fermentation process. It bubbles into a bucket of water, so that’s how you know it’s happening. We won’t have that any more. When we do brewery tours, there’ll be a neat visual component that just isn’t there right now.”