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Alaskan beer company uses beer as a fuel

Staff writer |
The Alaskan Brewing Company came to innovative idea to reduce its fuel oil consumption: the beer company is using beer as a fuel source.

To be more specific, the company is the wet grain known - spent grain - left over from the brewing process, as the fuel source for the new steam boiler. Alaskan is the first craft brewery in the world to use that brewing by-product, reducing the company’s fuel oil consumption in brewhouse operations by 60-70 percent.

"We have the unique honor of brewing craft beer in this stunning and remote place. But in order to grow as a small business here in Alaska and continue having a positive effect on our community, we have to take special efforts to look beyond the traditional to more innovative ways of brewing. Reducing our energy use makes good business sense, and good sense for this beautiful place where we live and play," said Alaskan Brewing co-founder Geoff Larson.

The company began the spent grain energy process in 1995 with the installation of a grain dryer. Company's experts designed the grain dryer to use up to 50 percent of the grain as a supplemental fuel source to heat the dryer itself.

In 2008, The Alaskan Brewing Company became the first craft brewery to install an energy saving piece of brewing equipment called a mash filter press. The mash filter press, in addition to providing greater efficiency, produces a lower-moisture-content spent grain than does the more traditional lautering process. This form of spent grain better lends itself to drying and for use as fuel for the brewery’s grain dryer and, ultimately, the new spent grain steam boiler system.

Over the latter months of the last year, the company completed the final stage of the process with the installation and commissioning of the $1.8 million, custom-constructed spent grain steam boiler.

Alaskan expects that the new boiler will eliminate the brewery’s use of fuel oil in the grain drying process and displace more than half of the fuel needed to create process steam in the brewhouse. The company expects to save nearly 1.5 million gallons of oil over the next ten years.

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