London-based Anderson Craft Ales is the first microbrewery in Ontario to install carbon-capture technology as part of its brewing process – allowing it to capture and reuse an estimated 100,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually.
Founded as a family-run business in 2016, Anderson Craft president Gavin Anderson explained the microbrewery had been on the lookout for this kind of technology. In 2021, it discovered and ordered the system from Austin, Tex.-based Earthly Labs.
“They're kind of the only option. We know we're making CO2, we know we're buying CO2, but we've been keeping an eye out for anyone that was making this technology on a microbrewery scale for at least five years. Then we heard about Earthly Labs, who's done a bunch of them in the States,” Anderson said.
“We talked to a few breweries there and then ordered one. The process has been around for a while in the big breweries, like your Labatts and Molson Coors, they would have some kind of CO2 capture and purifying system. But there's been nothing available for microbreweries.”
Earthly Labs’ CiCi CO2 capture solution includes hardware, software and services. Founded in 2016, the company began delivering its unit to breweries across the U.S. in 2018.
Anderson Craft’s brewing process
During the brewing process when yeast eats sugar from barley, it produces alcohol, but it also exhales CO2 as a by-product. Normally, that CO2 is just vented into the atmosphere, and then breweries would have to purchase food-grade CO2 from an outside supplier and use that in the carbonation process.
With Earthly Labs’ unit, the company can harvest all the CO2 produced by the yeast and transfer it to a fermenting tank, to be used for the rest of the brewing process.
“So we're not only capturing the CO2 that we make, we're also reducing the need to bring in more CO2,” Anderson said.
The capture system consists of a unit “about the size of a double fridge” along with a 340-kilogram CO2 holding tank. Earthly Labs’ unit can convert the gas to 99.9 per cent pure CO2 – beverage-grade quality.
After ordering the system in 2021, then waiting for all the necessary provincial regulatory approvals, the unit arrived in December and was installed in Anderson Craft’s London warehouse in January. The predicted CO2 emissions reduction is derived from the microbrewery’s expected production of 600,000 litres of beer during 2023.
The system cost approximately $150,000 to acquire and install and was funded in part by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
Anderson said the microbrewery should have a better sense of its overall carbon footprint once the equipment has been running for about half the year and the firm is able to collect more data.
Anderson Craft’s other sustainability measures
Anderson Craft brewery has undertaken a number of other installations and measures to make its business more sustainable. These include using reusable packaging materials – such as having toppers made out of post-consumer recycled material.
Aside from installing solar panels on the roof, Anderson Craft has also implemented a wastewater treatment system to drain the spent grains from the brewing process, which are then sent free to local farmers for use as animal feed. The company then buys meat from those same farmers to use in the restaurant at Anderson Craft called EatOA.
“The goal of this one is to take all of our effluent and reduce the VOC (volatile organic contaminants) and balance the pH and eliminate all the suspended solids,” he explained. “So when it's going down the drain it should be neutral. The goal is just to have our water going out as neutral as the water coming in.”
Anderson Craft offers five beers in its core lineup, along with seasonal brews.
“We want to make great beer, of course, that's No. 1,” Anderson said. “But then No. 2 would be make that as socially and environmentally friendly and responsible as possible.”