Case study

Delivering expertise in enterprise and innovation: Sustainability study for small breweries

21 Mar 2017

Beer is now the world’s third most popular drink, after water and tea.

The brewing industry has been experiencing a renaissance, with a rapid increase in the number of craft-brewers. There are now upwards of 1,700 breweries across the UK, an increase of 8% in the past year, and the surge in popularity of craft beer shows little sign of slowing down.

Researchers from Southampton Solent University are working with brewers, pubs, and others in the beer industry, to investigate opportunities for circular economy transitions, ensuring economic and environmental sustainability in the UK craft brewing industry.

Craft breweries are typically small-scale independently owned breweries using traditional brewing methods, with an emphasis on flavour, quality, and individuality.

For many small scale breweries their environmental credentials are important, and claims are often made of local small-scale production being more 'environmentally friendly'. Having said that, the changes in beer consumption habitats and flavour profiles over recent years have meant a change in ingredients, often sourced overseas requiring greater shipping distances.

A pilot study carried out by Dr Laurie Wright, an environmental scientist at Solent, strongly suggests that while the main stages of ingredient production and brewery operation dominates the sustainability burdens of craft breweries, there may be opportunities to improve economic and environmental performance through brewery reconfiguration.

“A small brewery has limited control over the production of their raw material, however they do control the destinations of wastes and brewery management where significant savings might be possible,” says Laurie.