Monday, April 25, 2011

Drink (Socially) Responsible

As long as I can remember, the Indiana brewing community has been more socially responsible than many corporations without announcing it. You never hear of a brewery patting themselves on the back and making a big show about all the charitable and environmentally friendly things they do. It is just part of the culture. Many breweries are taking tremendous steps to become more environmentally friendly, and in some cases at great personal cost to their business. Many breweries use a tremendous amount of energy with everything from refrigeration used to keep finished product cool; all the way to energy used to heat thousands of gallons of water daily. Some steps taken to offset energy usage include switching metal kegs to plastic, giving away spent grains used in the mashing process to local farmers as an additive to animal feed, and using their heat exchanger to heat water for the next boil as they cool water from the previous one. Although breweries will never fully be able to eliminate their carbon footprint, some breweries, like Goose Island, have taken great steps to conserve valuable water and reducing waste.

Charities have long used breweries as a medium for fundraising. What attracts more people than an opportunity to taste beer for a few hours and still raise money for a good cause? In my book that's a win-win. Every year there are numerous festivals across the state. Although no actual numbers have been recorded, hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised every year by my estimate.

The Indiana Microbrewer's Festival that takes place annually in July is one of the largest charity-oriented festivals in the state. Quickly outgrowing its current venue at Optimist Park in the Broad Ripple Village, the Indiana Microbrewer's Festival, or Beer Fest as I like to call it, boasts ticket sales of 6000. Over 200 brewers from all over the country travel to this festival to showcase their beers for visitors. In fact, this festival has grown so quickly, the Brewers of Indiana Guild, who hosts the event, has annexed part of the property of the Indianapolis Art Center which is located just north of the park.

Growth of this industry in Indiana will not only mean more tasty beers at the fingertips of a thirsty market, but will act as a conduit for charities, like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, who need the funding to continue the work they have started.



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