Who doesn’t love a nice cold pint on a hot day? In fact, across the globe, people drink more than 2 billion hectolitres of beer every year. But with current methods of production, the planet might not enjoy the drink as much as we do.
We spoke to beer market manager at Pall Corporation, Dr Roland Pahl-Dobrick who told us that current methods of beer filtration are unsustainable but big brewers are increasingly embracing modern techniques to improve their carbon footprint.
Beer filtration often relies on fossilised algae called diatomaceous earth (DE) as a filtration method.
Roland says: “Filtration of beer and wine was dominated in the past by a substance called diatomaceous earth (DE) and while this technology produces very good beers, those filtered beers we grew up with, it is not a very sustainable way of doing the filtration of beverages.
“DE is something that is dismantled from the ground, from mines and to be able to reuse it in foodstuffs, it needs to be treated. That treatment involves heat treatment.
“The heat treatment since were talking about a fossil material, needs to be a very high temperatures – 900°C. That of means a lot of energy being used and a lot of CO2 emissions.
Specifically for brewers, DE needs to be of high quality so not every mine in the world can be used for brewers so DE is being brought from certain places in the world where there aren’t too many of [these mines] to every brewery in the world that wants to use DE.”
Additionally, DE cannot be reused.
This process can be replaced by a more sustainable crossflow membrane filtration using food-safe polymers that are reusable.
Dr Pahl-Dobrick says: “The membranes run by tangential flow, which means the beer flows parallel to the membrane and only some part of the beer travels through the membrane to be filtrated by the pressure difference.
That crossflow keeps the membrane free for very long so you can have long and effective filter runs.”
Replacing DE with more modern methods of filtration can also save water in the process.
Larger brewing companies, with greater resources for technology and research, are able to create sustainable beers with smaller carbon footprints.
With major suppliers achieving this, beer as a whole is becoming a low-carbon product.
Good news is, sustainable beer tastes just as good.
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