The REAL green beer – with all due respect to Saint Patty

We recently had dinner at Max Lager’s American Grill and Brewery in Atlanta with our beer-loving Athens friends. When JR, Max Lager’s owner, manager, CEO, executive chef and brewmeister, stopped by our table to see how we liked the beer (as brewers always do when we’re with Owen) I took the opportunity to snap his photo and ask about the brewpub’s green practices.

I was happy to hear that this restaurant is taking steps toward the greening of their operations. Max Lager’s has recently switched to compostable take-out containers, which was especially good news for me since we were running behind to catch the Los Lobos concert at the Botanical Gardens (great show) and I had forgotten to bring my little plastic tub in with me. The veggie Maxadilla was just too good to leave half-eaten on the table like a tip, so it was nice to have something I felt okay about carrying it home in. Well, to the concert and then home.

We’ve noticed that brewers and beer lovers in general seem to be a pretty ecologically aware crowd. We’ve reported on the Decatur brewpub, Twain’s before but just to refresh your memory, they donate spent grain to farmers and spent oil to biodiesel makers; they recycle plastic and glass, utilize equipment and practices that conserve water and use compostable take-out containers. They charge a bit extra for take-out orders, which is a good way of allowing diners to pay for what they actually use, rather than spreading the costs around to consumers across the bar…er…board.

We’ve volunteered at Owen’s Classic City Brew Fest in the past and know that he and Kerri head back up to the Foundry the morning after that exhausting day so they can make sure all the empties get hauled to the recycling center and don’t end up in the trash. They also contribute a big chunk of the proceeds from the event to local charities, which is a great benefit for the community. Last year, I met representatives from the Humane Society and a battered womens’ shelter that were recipients of some of the green.

We recently attended Summits Wayside Tavern’s monthly beer school, where we heard from the the Sierra Nevada rep about all the tons, I mean tons, of green things this brewery is doing to minimize the impact of its business operations on the environment. For one thing, as a member of the California Climate Action Registry the brewery tracks and works to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. It produces its own clean power through solar panels on the roof, recycles and works diligently to reduce waste. In fact, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger honored the brewer for its efforts by awarding it an Environmental and Economic Leadership award in 2005.

Atlanta’s 5 Seasons breweries have also made a strong commitment to operating in an environmentally friendly manner. The folks there have teamed up with RainHarvest Systems to install a rainwater catchment system for brewing what is probably the first micro-brewed beer made entirely from rainwater. This has got to be a big relief to Lake Lanier boaters given the popularity of the 5 Seasons restaurants and their brew.

5 Seasons also shows a lot of integrity in the preparation of its food – lots of local produce, all natural meats and artesinal breads baked in-house. Some of the spent grains used in the production of their beer are added to their bread and the rest of it goes to a local organic farmer for composting.

And if you missed seeing Fresh at Sevananda last month, 5 Seasons will give you another chance to catch the flick in October when, along with collaborators the Weston A. Price Foundation and Above and Beyond Farm, they’ll host the movie and a panel discussion. There will also be a silent auction, and proceeds from the event will go toward offsetting the cost of future educational programs.Tickets are $10 and are available through the website of Our Natural Life.

Aside from their green practices, brewers seem to be the ultimate do-gooders in the hospitality industry. Fifty cents from the sale of every pint of Max Lager’s Quadratic Liquation goes to aid Atlanta’s homeless. Sierra Nevada’s founder, Ken Grossman, is on the board for the Western River Conservancy and last spring donated a portion of every 12-pack sold of Sierra’s Pale Ale and Summerfest Lager to the organization, which works to protect river ecosystems in the western United States.

Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewery is a corporate partner in the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy organization that works to protect the Chattahoochee River and the “ecological health of the fish, wildlife and people who depend on the River system.” They are also host to Beer4Boobs, a benefit supporting local organizations that work toward “providing diagnosis, education, support and research to thousands of Atlanta area women affected by the disease” of breast cancer. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, so look for updates in the future.

Please, drink responsibly. Get your beer from brewers, restaurants and tavern owners that are serious about their responsibility to the environment (and those of us that live in it).

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