Early this month, a group of 25 Young Professionals took a break from the AIChE Spring Meeting to take a tour of the Abita Brewing Company in Abita Springs, LA. Located about an hour outside of New Orleans on the opposite side of Lake Ponchatrain, the Abita Brewing Company strongly believes in green brewing. YPs were able to sample several of the different brews made at the brewery (including root beer!) and took a tour of its current brewing and bottling facilities as well as new facilities under construction to expand their capacity. Abita Brewing Company opened in 1986 and has expanded from a local distribution of just 1,500 barrels to a nearly nationwide distribution of 160,000 barrels. The Brewery uses water from 4 artesian wells that are part of the source of the spring that lends Abita Springs its name. The wells are at a depth of 250 feet and each well can draw up to 75,000 gallons a day. The word "Abita" means "healing waters" in Choctaw, the local Native Americans who once frequented the spring.
In addition to using pure spring water, Abita uses an extremely efficient brewing system that uses 70% less energy than conventional systems. It also has made efforts to reduce wasted water in the process by capturing steam and staying on top of plumbing repairs. Another energy conserving effort is the Brewery's on-site wastewater treatment plant. The plant uses an anaerobic bio-energy recovery system that produces methane, which is used as part of the fuel for the boilers. Green efforts don't end with production. Abita uses recycled packaging, takes advantage of energy efficient vehicles in their sales and distribution efforts, and even recycles spent grain and hops as feed for cattle at local farms. Their six-pack packaging uses 47% less paper than traditional six-packs because of a unique tension design, and their specially designed bottles are 40 grams lighter than the industry standard longneck bottles, while holding the same amount of beer. Shorter bottles mean more bottles per pallet, allowing Abita to ship more beer more efficiently. Sustainability, efficiency and green engineering are hot topics in the chemical engineering community and they can be seen taking hold in all industries, including craft brewing, as exemplified by Abita Brewing Company. This tour was made possible by the director of brewery operations at Abita, Jaime Jurado, who is a Senior Member of AIChE. So, next time you pull up a stool at your local pub, thank a chemical engineer - not only for making your brew of choice delicious, but for the green choices the brewery is making. Below is a short video about Abita's sustainability efforts: