The Alaskan Brewing Company is now operating with a new fuel source: beer. More specifically, they are using the wet grain known as “spent grain,” left over from the brewing process, as the sole fuel source for their new steam boiler. Alaskan is the first craft brewery in the world to use this brewing by-product in this way, reducing the company’s fuel oil consumption in brewhouse operations by 60-70%.
The brewery began the spent grain energy process in 1995 with the installation of a grain dryer. The equipment dried the wet, protein-rich spent grain in preparation for shipment to the lower 48 for use as cattle feed, due to the absence of farms or ranches in Southeast Alaska. Alaskan designed the grain dryer to use up to 50% of the grain as a supplemental fuel source to heat the dryer itself. This reduced the oil required in the drying process, and provided experience in burning spent grain that would later prove useful in designing the steam boiler.
In 2008, Alaskan became the first craft brewery in the nation to install an energy saving piece of brewing equipment called a mash filter press. The mash filter press, in addition to providing greater energy, water, and materials efficiencies, produces a lower-moisture-content spent grain than does the more traditional lautering process. This form of spent grain better lends itself to drying and for use as fuel for the brewery’s grain dryer and, ultimately, the new spent grain steam boiler system.