A lot goes in to making beer. A lot of grain, a lot of water, a lot of yeast, and a lot of energy. And where there is energy use, there is efficiency opportunity.
Recently, I've been spending much of my time thinking about energy use in breweries, and working on the new Sierra Nevada facility in North Carolina has opened my eyes to even more opportunity. Every bit of heat that can be saved is recovered and used. I had to sacrifice a wall in my office to the diagram pictured below just to start tracing all the energy flows. Paper just wouldn't cut it.
Now when the bartender puts a pint in front of me and I take that first sip, I wonder how much heat recovery I taste. I wonder what happened to the energy that cooked the grains; was it used to "mash" the grains and activate the enzymes or heat the cleaning water? Or did it just go out the chimney?
When I grab a six pack from the cooler, I wonder how much less I might pay if the brewery saved all the heat from the cooked wort when they cooled it down to the yeast's preferred temperature. Are they spending too much on energy and having to pass the cost on to consumers like me? Could the beer be cheaper and more efficient?
I like dark, malty beer, and I like crisp, hoppy beer. And now I have acquired a taste for recovered energy in my beer. You should try it.