My fellow Cumbrian brewer Stringers is very concerned about the environment. And of course they should be, anybody who takes the head-in-the-sand view that global warming is an invention by nutter environmentalist sandal wearing do-gooders really is ignoring an important problem for the future. The science community is just about completely in agreement on the subject and it's only industry and commerce that depend upon our carbon economy that wants to really deny it. To my shame I do very little to help the situation. Stringers do by making their beer from renewable energy and write a nice blog too.
I've mentioned my new project, my barley wine. It's going well and I think could be a fantastic beer. Then again it might be a complete failure which would distress me in more ways than one.
When I mentioned it before Stringers asked:
"Barley wine? How long are you having to boil it for? How much power does that use? Do you get your own dead polar bear?"
Yes, good point actually, about 360kwh to be precise, over 24 hours boil for not much more than 240l of beer. 2 dead polar bears and half a dozen penguins as well I suspect. Compare that to an ordinary brew which might use a quarter of the energy, if you aren't being careful. Beer does take a lot of energy to make irrespective of what it is.
One of the good things about the big breweries are their economies of scale. 100 tonne capacity mash filters running many mashes per day. Banks of coppers with condensing flues to recover heat. Energy recovery systems on the fermentation tank cooling systems and probably many more energy saving features on modern plants. It's not done for altruistic Arctic creature survival, no, energy costs money and it makes business sense to save money.
Back to my own place. I've a big building. It's old, very old, parts of it probably over 500 years old. The walls are made of granite rubble held together, where it's well made, with lime mortar. A previous owner reports there is one part that appears to be held together with little more than clay. We don't want to investigate to see if that is true. Some walls we have had to put holes through show that the mortar is only used on the outer 4 inches or so and inside the wall is dry cobbles. The windows are 150 year old sash windows that are drafty. It makes our place energy inefficient. We spend more on energy than we do on the mortgage.
Lets look on the bright side. I use precisely zero carbon fuels to transport my beer from the brewery to my cellar, about 30 metres. I wonder how much energy mass produced beers use to get them to the retail outlets and moreover how much energy is wasted on these fancy extra cold condensation sweating fonts?
I do worry that in trying to keep this ancient hostelry running that I am in fact chasing an ideal that has no place in our modern world. Large town centre pubs, in disused bus depots, can be made all energy efficient and modern. Compact distribution networks that provide volume economies of scale so your pint can be sold at £1.69 and so also help out the environment. Furthermore, these great drinking barns are fully fitted with modern efficient kitchens, modern heating systems and no doubt the building is refurbished to building regulations insulation levels. Just to put the icing on that cake the town centre locations provides footfall levels that enable even further economies of scale and further kwh/pint sold benefits. Polar beers and penguins rejoice.
I think the traditional pub has a huge problem with modern efficiency needs. This is not what I want, because I like remote country pubs, in all their fabulous forms, much more than most town centre locations. But real carbon fuel consumption reduction is going to happen for economic reasons, not altruistic ones. I foresee that our traditional pub is going to become more and more expensive to run as the cost of energy increases over the next few decades. Will we still be prepared to pay the price, both fiscal and environmentally, in a few years time, to keep the traditional, inefficient pubs and breweries going?