Iqaluit brewery aims to make its operation eco-friendly
“This is like the dreamy stuff you talk about elsewhere … but here it makes perfect sense”
Inside the tall, silver machine known as a lauter tun, at the back of Iqaluit’s new brewery, important parts of the beer-making process, called vorlauf and sparging, take place.
In the vorlauf stage, liquid is caught under a false bottom and recirculated on top of the grain to form a filter bed.
Then, during sparge, the leftover grain is sprinkled with fresh hot water to extract the sugars.
After vorlauf and sparge, the wort, or liquid sugar, is transferred to the kettle. It is in this process that a mash of spent grain is leftover inside the lauter tun. It typically goes to waste in most breweries.
However, at Nunavut Brewing Company Ltd., or Nu Brew, which opened its doors two weeks ago in Iqaluit, the spent grain waste is re-purposed. They collect spent grain in a giant tub and give it to Qikiqtaaluk Environmental Inc. to help treat contaminated soil.
“Each batch contains about 400 kg of grain which will soak up double its weight in water, leaving about 1200 kg of spent grain,” said Erik Pigeon, the head brewer at Nu Brew.
Since they plan to do about 114 brews per year, that is about 136,800 kilograms of spent grain that should avoid the landfill.
Nu Brew’s general manager, Katie Barbour, said this is just one example of how the company is trying to make its operations environmentally friendly.
For instance, carbon dioxide is a byproduct of making alcohol. If CO2 is released into the air, it becomes a greenhouse gas.
So, Nu Brew has purchased a machine that will enable them to capture this CO2 and use it to bubble their beer.
Breweries in southern Canada would likely see this machine as being prohibitively expensive. But it makes sense in Iqaluit, given the cost the brewery would otherwise pay to rent cylinders of CO2, said Barbour.
“This is like the dreamy stuff you talk about elsewhere, that you would love to do because it would be so good for the environment, but here it makes perfect sense,” Barbour said.
As well, the company initially planned to house its glycol chiller in a shed outside its main building, to protect it from winter temperatures.
“Then, we had a brilliant idea to move it inside to capture the heat it produces,” said Barbour.
They installed it in the business’s garage, “and we are now benefiting from the supplemented heat and reduced fuel bills,” said Barbour. “Win, win.”
Nu Brew also has a plan to re-use its bottles. Although some of Iqaluit’s beer cans get recycled through Bryan Hellwig’s operation, none of the city’s glass bottles are currently reused or recycled.
Instead, they’re ground up and sent to the landfill.
Nu Brew bought 36,000 glass bottles to start. But at $1.70 per empty bottle, the price, after air freight, is “staggering,” Barbour says. So they want to get their bottles back.
“How do you train a town that’s never really gotten into recycling and has no plan for glass to give us all of our bottles back so we can wash them, refill them and sell them? It’s going to be tricky. I think it will take some time and training,” Barbour said.
Nu Brew has licensing agreements to sell its beer to the city’s restaurants and bars. The company plans to pick up the empties once a week from these locations, in order to keep the bottles in circulation.
The brewery also purchased a canning machine and will eventually sell canned beer through the beer and wine store for people to bring home. They also have plans for recycling that aluminum in Iqaluit.
Barbour said she was approached by Nunavut’s finance department and was told the liquor licensing board wanted to work with the company on this.
“They are looking to start some sort of recycling program and we have totally bellied up and said we want to play,” she said.
“The more people who are united on this front the better it will be for everyone.”