Sustainability in brewing.
Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do and it's embedded into all our processes and practices. Traditionally brewing has not been a very environmentally friendly process and once we started planning the brewery we looked at how we could improve. We are only beginning our journey in this rite but have partnered with Bord Bia's Origin Green Sustainability Program to assist us on our way.
We recently became certified members of the program and are looking at a few key areas:
Brewing uses a lot of energy and we were keen to make sure we are as environmentally responsible as possible. Solar was the obvious choice and the installation of a solar farm on the roof of our new brewery is in the works. We expect this will be commissioned and operational by year end 2023 that will generate 100% of its own energy needs.
We source the vast majority of our raw materials from local suppliers. This keeps transportation costs to a minimum and reduces our carbon footprint. Once we have used the grains we re-use and recycle all spent grains and waste products. We have partnered with a number of local farmers who use the spent grain on their land. This way there is zero waste associated with our raw materials.
Social Sustainability - Community Engagement
Sustainability is also about giving back to our community to sustain and support those around us. At Connemara Brewing each full-time staff member is given a day of leave a year to volunteer for a local charity. Its just another small step we can take to make things a little better and we love offering our team the opportunity to contribute value and time where they feel its best placed.
Brewing beer is water intensive! The main use of the water is in cleaning the beer tanks once we finish brewing. We are in the process of installing Rainwater collection tanks that we will use to harvest all the rainwater which we will use for all our cleaning (and other uses) thereby dramatically reducing our water usage from other sources.
Packaging & Distribution
Most of the packaging we use is fully recycled and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. We only use cans (as opposed to bottles) as they are much more environmentally friendly and recyclable than glass. We purchase the vast majority of our materials from local suppliers, thereby minimizing delivery kilometers and reducing our carbon footprint. In addition.
Origin Green Sustainability Program
Our journey of deeper sustainability practices is aided by partnering with Bord Bia's ‘Origin Green Sustainability Program’. We are now officially Certified, continually assisting to further improve all levels of manufacturing, sourcing & supply chain with sustainability as one of our core values and practices. For us – investing in environmentally responsible practices and equipment is an easy decision. Not only does it have obvious environmental benefits, but it also gives us a unique story that really resonates with our customers and consumers. We will continue to invest in and improve our environment and sustainability practices as we grow.
The Brewing Process
We use four ingredients when brewing:
The water used in the brewing of beer is referred to as Liquor. The Hot Liquor Tank or (HLT) is preheated to a desired temperature for mixing with crushed malt during the Mashing process.
A green cone shaped flower that comes in many varietals, that all have their own unique bittering, flavour & aromatic profiles. This precious element is called Lupulin and the hop plant itself is known as ‘Humulas Lupulus’ or the ‘wolf among weeds’
The various malted barley used when making beer. Some malts are heavily modified and will have a maillard reaction occur during malting that results in a browning that adds colour and flavours to a beer.
Found naturally occurring nearly everywhere. Over the centuries, yeast strains have been collected, cultivated, harvested and isolated in many forms for many fermentation purposes.
Certain strains provide unique results and are used specifically when brewing beers. Brewing yeast generally stem from two main parents; Saccharomyces Pastorianus, a bottom fermenting Lageryeast used for making Lager beer styles & Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, a top fermenting Ale yeast used for Ale styles.
We crush the malted barley to expose the inner starches for conversion to sugars during the mashing process. If the crush is too fine it can result in difficulty filtering in the next stage, so it’s important to adjust the mill depending on the grains used to prevent a ‘Stuck Mash’.
Mixing of malt & liquor now occurs resulting in what appears like a malt porridge of sorts. A 2.6:1 ratio of liquor to malt, we find works for best results. Our ‘Mash’ once mixed is allowed rest for 1 hour at a set temperature for the conversion of starches to fermentable sugars; Saccharification, and as we do not adjust this temperature during this process, it is known as an ‘infusion mash’. The Mash temperature will vary depending on the style of beer or results desired, small changes in temperature can have a big impact on the finished fermented beer.
Once the mash conversions are complete, the resulting sweet liquor is known as ‘wort’. The wort is now drained via the bottom of the mash tun, from a slightly raised perforated ‘false bottom’ cavity underneath the grain bed. We shower hot liquor on top of the mash at the same rate it is being drained from underneath to maintain the best density for optimal extraction of sugars from the mash, and to avoid the dreaded ‘stuck mash’. This wort is transferred into our brew kettle for the next vital step.
Boiling the wort stops any enzyme activity allowing you to have a fixed profile of wort for fermentation purposes, this can be achieved during the Sparging process to a degree but is fully completed once the wort is boiled. Boiling the wort sterilises it too and allows for proteins to condense and form clumps that bind and fall to the bottom of the kettle when big enough. This helps for cleaner wort to go to the fermentation vessel (FV). The boiling process generally lasts for 1 hour.
Hops are added during the boil and contain ‘lupulins’ that add flavour and aroma to beer, they also contain ‘alpha acids’ which isomerise into the wort to add bitterness. The timing of when hops are added, the varietal of hop & the volumes used, will all impart different profiles to a beer. Adding hops to the boil is known as ‘wet hopping’. This is where some of the brewers magic comes into play, much like a chef in a kitchen. Balancing the right level of bitterness or imparting certain ‘fruity’ flavours are all carefully crafted at this stage.
Once the boil is finished, we allow the wort to settle for a few minutes and begin transferring it to the fermentation Vessel, via a sanitised heat exchanger. The heat exchange pumps the boiled wort through a series of plates tightly packed together, which has water flowing on the opposite side of the plates. The cold water is heated up during this process and the wort cooled to desired fermentation temperature. This freshly heated water is moved into our HLT to become our liquor for the next brew day, thus reducing our energy usage and reusing as much water as possible.
Once the wort is cooled and transferred into the sanitised FV it is ready to begin its fermentation process. We add a specific yeast strain depending on the beer style being brewed and control its temperature throughout this process to achieve the desired results. This primary fermentation process allows the yeast to grow and eat the wort sugars resulting in the production of alcohol and carbon dioxide, after which the product will turn from sweet wort to finished beer. Certain yeast strains will impart unique flavour profiles depending on how it is treated during this process and they are known as esters, another tool in the brewers ability to create something complex and unique. Primary fermentation typically takes between 7 – 10 days depending on style of beer. Hops are often added during the stage and in conditioning to add more flavour and aromatics to the beer, this process is known as ‘Dry hopping’.
Once primary fermentation is complete the yeast will begin to drop out of suspension with no more available sugars to consume. Once this occurs the beer is now transferred carefully to a condition tank (CT). At this stage it is important not to allow oxygen to come into contact with the beer as it will result in aging the product and imparting undesired flavours. The beer is usually conditioned between 0-4°C where it rounds out and become more delicate and full bodied. The conditioning time period will vary depending on style also, with lagers needed additional time to ales.
Once conditioning is complete beer is transferred into our bright beer tanks (BBT’s) for carbonating, packaging and shipping. Carbon dioxide is released into the BBT via a ‘carb stone’ which bubbles fine bubbles of carbon dioxide into the beer absorbing it over time with the aid of temperature and pressure until it is at the desired volume for the beer. Dissolved oxygen (DO) can affect shelf life and taste of beer so keeping DO levels very low is paramount during the packaging stage and is taken very seriously by the brew team to ensure top quality product. From here it is ready for canning or being put into kegs and shipped out to our amazing customers!