St. Patrick’s Day isn’t for the Irish or Catholics or even connoisseurs of corned-beef suppers anymore. It’s for beer lovers. Over the last few decades, the day has changed from an ethnic, religious or cultural celebration into an excuse to party, much like Mardi Gras or Cinco de Mayo.
And the sophistication of beer-drinking Americans has changed just as drastically. There is even a Cicerone Certification program, now, creating the beer equivalent of the wine sommelier.
But our love of suds brings some environmental costs with it. Significant water use, transportation, agricultural methods for the hops and barley, and transportation of the product lead the list. One of best ways to address these, from the consumer side, is reward brewers and servers making green choices.
Is there a perfect, eco-friendly joint for a bite and a brew, locally? Most of our choices locally take one or two steps towards greening, with some rising to a darker shade of shamrock than others. How does your favorite watering hole rate?
Local is Lovely: Micro-brews on the Peninsula
Artisan brewers import the dry ingredients for making fresh beer in small batches. They use local tap water instead of bringing in pre-made bottles holding mostly water from thousands of miles away. And they change flavors with the seasons. Check a few of our locals out!
BJ’s Brewhouse in San Bruno and Foster City (a chain in 13 states, still manages award-winning ales)
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company serves their locally-made selections in their restaurant, and sells at local groceries and convenience stores
Steelhead Brewing Company in Burlingame. Mini-chain with three locations on the west coast. Makes all their brews on the location's premises, and serves them there.
Devil's Canyon Brewery, in Belmont, can be found in local pubs, and picked up onsite at special times (see below).
Domestic vs. Imported
How far did that bottle or can travel to reach your table? Shipping bottles and cans from abroad has a huge carbon footprint. Don't overlook the American offerings on the menu.
Beyond the Bottle or Can
Many places with a liquor license get points for offering draft beer, which cuts down on the packaging and shipping per serving. Going one big step further, Devil’s Canyon Brewery offers growler refills on most Friday nights. Buy your growler (a sturdy half-gallon glass jug) once, and then bring it back for more fresh brewed beer or root beer at a discounted refill price.
Don't Forget the Pub Grub!
Though the beer may draw you in, some of our local watering holes put just as much care into the food they serve. For example:
Martin's West in Redwood City specializes in artisinal dishes made from local, seasonal ingredients, to pair with a wide selection of imported and local beers.
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company gets extra points for being an As Fresh as it Gets restaurant, and only serving seafood from the Seafood Watch approved list. (Plus extra bonus points for being a certified green business, with documented steps to reduce waste, energy and water use, and prevent pollution.)
Do Your Own Research
Are you going out this weekend? Your mission, if you choose to accept it:ask your favorite hangout's staff some friendly questions about the beer, the food, the other ways they may have greened the business.
Not all servers know the answers to these sorts of questions. But if they do, they'll be proud to tell you. Then you can enjoy a side of great conversation.
A mild-mannered civil servant by day, Mary Bell Austin uses her time away from her environmental work for, well, environmental play. Her adventures in healthy eating and her explorations into the wider green world can be found at Bite-size Green. Her column appears biweekly on Saturdays.