Brewery and Distillery Energy Efficient Toolkit

By nature, breweries and distilleries rely on large amounts of energy and water in nearly every stage of the production process – from growing ingredients, processing them, brewing, bottling and canning, and distributing the finished product. In fact, breweries spend roughly $200 million on energy costs associated with producing beer. 

However, great strides have been made in energy and water efficiency in breweries and distilleries. Two main areas of energy efficiency to focus on include existing brewery equipment such as motors, refrigeration, and heating systems, as well as with the overall production process. For information on energy efficientrefrigeration,HVAC systems, motors, and lighting, please refer to the Project Type Toolkits. 


Copper brewing tanksIncreasing the production efficiency of a brewery line can be achieved in several ways.  The Brewers Association maintains a website concerning sustainability in the brewery sector, with several conservation tools. 

Each step of the brewing process can be upgraded with new technology to increase energy efficiency. Below are a list of specific upgrades that can be made for each process. 

Mashing and Lautering

Implement a compression filter in place of the traditional plate filter 

  • A compression filter can both increase the yield of product through the mashing process while reducing energy and water costs for cleaning the filter, which is cleaned using air instead of water. 
  • Compression filters may also have the ability to further improve brewing efficiency by reducing cycle times. 
  • The Brand Brewery in the Netherlands saves roughly 5 kWhs/hL using a compression filter rather than a plate filter. For more information on this, see here. 

Retrofit the Mash Tun with a heat exchanger 

Excess heat from the mashing process can be captured using a heat recovery system reintegrated into various other areas of brewery operation including: 

  • Pasteurization 
  • Further mashing processes 
  • Hot water heating 

A heat recovery system needs to be installed on the mash tun itself in order to recover excess heat. 

Wort Processing

Install vapor condensers 

  • Excess heat captured from the kettle vapors created during wort boiling can be utilized to pre-heat incoming wort. 
  • Excess heat from the vapor condensate can be used for washing equipment and supplying heat to the building 
  • At New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado, heat recovery from the wort boiling process provides enough energy to supply the brewery with all the hot water it needs for brewing, as well as some cleaning. 
  • Vapor condensers can recover up to 60% of the energy required for wort boiling. 
  • Vapor condensers can also reduce water and maintenance costs, while saving enough energy to achieve a payback period in as little as 3 years. 

Utilize a Steinecker Merlin brew kettle 

Boiling: A Steinecker Merlin brew kettle reduces boiling time by heating thin sheets of wort as it runs over a cone shaped heating element, as opposed to heating the entire batch of wort in the kettle. 

  • This can greatly reduce heating time and gas consumption needed to boil the wort 
  • Additionally, excess heat (in the form of steam) can be captured and stored for heating another batch of wort 
  • Abita Brewery in Louisiana was the first brewery in America to utilize the Steineker Merlin brewing kettle. They were able to reduce wort boiling time by more than half and reduced energy consumption for this stage by 70%. 

Wort Stripping: Wort stripping can be performed with great efficiency in a Steinecker Merlin brew kettle 

  • As beer runs over the cone heating element, the large surface area allows a large amount of undesirable gas, such as DMS, to be expelled at quicker rates, producing better tasting beer in a shorter time. 

Bottling, Canning, and Packaging

People touring breweryCO2 Recovery Systems

CO2 is a big byproduct of the fermentation process. Capturing the CO2 and reusing it in other brewery process is a great way to reduce emissions and lower energy costs. For example, captured CO2 from the fermentation process can be utilized in the bottling and canning process for flushing, carbonation, and tank blankets, to name a few.  Many breweries can even attain their full supply of CO2 from fermentation and other processes if an efficient recovery system is installed. 

Lolo Peak Brewing in Montana recently began utilizing a CO2 recovery system, which captures, cleans and stores CO2 for later use in the brewing process. By installing this system, the brewery was able to cut carbon emissions by 88%. 

Utilizing Variable Speed Drives

VSDs can be utilized quite effectively in the packaging stage of a brewery. A variable speed drive can alter the speed of a motor, slowing or increasing the speed where appropriate. This allows for greater overall control of the system, thus maximizing efficiency. VSDs also allow for soft starting and dynamic braking which can reduce wear and tear on motor parts, extending the lifespan of the motor. VSDs are also a good fit to replace flow control valves. Instead of running the motor at full speed against a partially closed valve, remove the valve and slow the motor down instead. A VSD can lead to energy savings of 10-60% when applied properly! 

Some Montana utility companies provide rebates for installing VSDs on existing motors, fans, and pumps. These rebates range from  $40-$50 back per horse power (HP) unit or anywhere from 10-25% savings on the total cost of a VSD. Specific rebate offers and requirements should be discussed with the local utility company. 

Optimizing Compressed Air Efficiency

Compressed air is used in many processes throughout the brewery including prepping bottles for filling and moving products and by products, such as spent grain and liquids, throughout the brewery. While certainly helpful, compressed air can actually be one of the least efficient areas within a brewery. Ensuring that compressed air is only being utilized when needed is the easiest way to reduce energy costs in this area. Below are a few tips to heed regarding compressed air: 

  • Utilize low pressure fan blowers rather than compressed air to dry bottles in the bottling line 
  • Don’t use compressed air for cleaning equipment or for personal cooling 
  • Test for leaks regularly. Shut off equipment at the end of the day, noting the pressure. The next morning, the pressure should be close to the same. If not, the system has one or more leaks. 
  • Repair leaks as soon as they are discovered 

Compressed air leaks are one of the biggest contributors to compressed air inefficiency. Overcoming leaks requires the system to work that much harder to deliver air to its destination and maintain pressure with the lines. It also contributes to wear and tear on the system, which can reduce its overall lifespan. Limiting air leaks to no more than 10% of the air produced will ensure your system operates efficiently. 

Identifying leaks can be difficult sometimes. Be sure to check equipment when it is both on and off. Educating employees on where these leaks frequently occur is a great way ensure leaks are identified and remedied quickly. Some areas to note are: 

  • Branch line connections 
  • Rubber hoses 
  • Automatic drain traps 
  • Quick couplers 

Quick Tips for Energy Efficiency

  • Turn of equipment when not in use, especially ventilation systems when the building is closed 
  • Educate employees on energy and water conservation practices 
  • Perform regular maintenance on HVAC equipment, water heaters, etc. 
  • Check regularly for air, steam and water leaks; repair promptly 
  • Ensure insulation levels meet industry standards; repair any insulation that doesn’t meet standards 
  • Review and modify energy set points such as thermostats and water temperatures regularly 
  • Upgrade to LED lighting 
  • Collect steam condensate and recycle back into processing 
  • Upgrade or retrofit old equipment to energy efficient models