Beer, booze, wine and water: Is your favorite drink made sustainably?

The next time you sip an adult beverage, you may want to consider how it was created — and whether its maker is taking steps to address water pollution.

According to an article in Pollution Online, two Tennessee distilleries — Jack Daniels and George Dickel — are under scrutiny for exceeding allowable limits on pollutants released into their wastewater.

The pollution, which stems from the distilling process, includes “ethanol, cleaning agents, leftover organic matter from the fermented grains and corn, and solids such as charcoal from filtering operations … The organic material and ethanol, when consumed by microorganisms, can deprive lakes and streams of oxygen. Also, warm water from cooling operations can upend fragile ecosystems,” the article states. Both distilleries say they have made or are in the process of making improvements to remedy the problem.

The problem isn’t limited to distilleries — breweries and wineries also need to keep a close eye on how they dispose of their byproducts. A California winery was fined $650,000 last year for  “discharging eight times its limit for nitrate for two years in wastewater,” The East Bay Times reported.

Thankfully, many of our local alcohol producing neighbors already take measures toward keeping their processes clean and green. Fegley’s Brew Works, for example, won a 2012 sustainability award for its practice of composting, sustainable energy use and reuse of spent grains as feed for cattle. “Brew Works is composting 100% of our food scraps and food soiled paper products. We look forward to having other Lehigh Valley restaurants join in the effort to reduce waste sent to landfills,” the company’s website states. An article from The Morning Call states that the compost amounts to about “900 tons a year” of food waste that otherwise would have gone into a landfill.

In Breinigsville, The Boston Beer Company — which produces Sam Adams — takes similar measures. “We also aggressively recycle our brewing byproduct — our spent grain and yeast is sent to local dairy farmers for use as animal feed or soil fertilizers and we’ve invested in carbon dioxide (CO2) recovery systems that allow us to capture and reuse CO2 for carbonation and other brewery related processes,” the company says on its website.

The move to reduce pollution is being embraced by breweries and distilleries across the nation. According to the Water Online article, Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR, says it restores “one billion gallons of water into the Deschutes River every year to offset what we use to brew our … tasty beer.” It creates about 100,000 gallons of wastewater each day.

If you’re interested in learning more about sustainability and alcohol, check out these links: