FREEPORT — Beer is more than just a mixture of water, grain, hops and yeast.

Brewers know that each batch needs energy – the electricity to power the brewing system, to control the climate to heat the water, to bottle the beer, to refrigerate the finished product, to transport it where it needs to go. Behind every bottle of beer is a substantial carbon footprint – something that Maine Beer Co. says it wants to reduce.

Maine Beer Co. launched a new clean energy initiative Thursday to help increase renewable energy in the community and across the state.

Maine Beer Co.’s 194 solar panels offset 100 percent of its tasting room energy needs. By 2030 the company hopes to produce more clean energy than it uses. Courtesy Maine Beer Co.

The company has 194 solar panels on site – a 50-kilowatt system – that marketing and events manager Anne Marisic said powers its tasting room and a small percentage of production needs. By 2022, the company hopes to have more panels at the facility to meet 60 to 70 percent of its total energy needs. By 2030, it hopes to generate more clean energy than it uses.

Until that time, Maine Beer Co. is working with local nonprofits like Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment, an organic farm and educational center in Freeport, to support clean energy installations offsite. In the coming years, Wolfe’s Neck hopes to go 100 percent solar, said Dave Herring, the farm’s executive director. With a $25,000 donation, Maine Beer Co. supported one-sixth of the most recent solar array project at Wolfe’s Neck’s new organic dairy facility; a project with an estimated annual cost savings of $20,000 Marisic said.

“For us, it doesn’t matter where the clean energy is generated. We want to support and encourage others to make clean energy a priority and a reality – however we can do that is a win,” said Steve Mills, CEO of Maine Beer Co. “Our hope is that the Clean Energy Initiative can do good while also inspiring other companies, and individuals, throughout Maine to consider more clean energy alternatives as a way of life.”

Maine Beer Co. partnered with 1% for the Planet, a nonprofit organization that encourages companies to donate 1 percent of annual profits to environmental nonprofits. So far, the Maine Beer Co. has given more that $500,000 and plans to donate another $150,000 in 2019.

“We’re living in a world where we need to be much more proactive,” Marisic said, adding that while the Wolfe’s Neck project does not have a direct financial benefit to the brewery, “wherever we’re creating clean energy, that’s a good thing.”

The brewery is looking into other green initiatives, she said, like a system to recapture carbon dioxide produced during brewing that would allow them to clean it and reuse it to power draft lines.

In March, Maine Beer Co. joined 11 other Maine breweries to form the Maine Brewshed Alliance, a coalition of brewers dedicated to protecting Maine’s waters.

Maine brewers understand “a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand,” Kristin Jackson, a representative for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said at the time.

Sean Sullivan, executive director of Maine Brewers’ Guild, said in an email that there are 144 licensed breweries in Maine, appearing in each of the 16 counties. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, 19 new breweries opened in the state.

A recent study by the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association found that in 2018, the Maine beer industry had a $2 million economic output and directly and indirectly employed more than 15,000 Mainers.

Portland’s Allagash Brewing Co., also part of the Maine Brewshed Alliance, has its own solar array that has produced around 1,113 megawatt hours of energy since 2016, which Allagash officials said is equivalent to planting 4,475 trees. As the industry continues to grow, more companies like Maine Beer Co. and Allagash, larger brands like New Belgium and even Coors are stepping up to try to offset their contribution to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is a constant conversation with brewers and people in our business,” Marisic said, “We’re hoping to be stewards of how you can do this.”

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