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Brewing up water savings

Australia’s largest brewer is taking steps to safeguard the most important ingredient in its beer: water.

The two main uses for water in brewing are in the beer itself, and in the brewing process for activities like cleaning, cooling and pasteurising. Add in the water needed to grow the barley, hops and malt, and it can take about 168 L of water to produce a single pint.

Conscious of Australia’s water supply challenges, Lion Beer Australia (known for brands including XXXX, Boag’s and Little Creatures) wanted to reduce its water consumption. In 2009, it commissioned a water recycling plant at its Castlemaine Perkins brewery in Brisbane to recover wastewater and minimise its reliance on drinking water.

The result? Over the past decade the brewery has halved the amount of water it uses to make XXXX Gold, recycling 2.8 L of water for every litre of beer.

The plant, which uses reverse osmosis, now generates more than 220 ML of water a year, and can recycle up to 6.8 ML in a high production week. 

Following reverse osmosis, the water goes through UV and chlorine treatment before being used in cooling towers, boilers and for cleaning. 

“Our utilities team is constantly pushing the boundaries of water recycling through operational improvements and ongoing enhancements to the reverse osmosis plant,” Lion Manufacturing Director ANZ and former Castlemaine Brewery Director Irene Bell said.

Lion commissioned a water recycling plant at its XXXX brewery in 2009.

“For us, it’s about constantly looking for the next step change. We’re confident we will continue to boost the efficiency of Castlemaine in Queensland, as well as providing best practice that our other breweries across Australia can also apply to increase their own resilience to change.”

Along with recycled water, Castlemaine Utilities and Services Leader Tri Tran said the Castlemaine brewery also recovers biogas from beer, which is used to offset some of the natural gas used in its steam boilers. Steam generated by the boilers is used as an energy source.   

“All the wastewater from the entire site – whether it is waste from brewing, packaging or cleaning – is captured in a collection pit, known as the trade waste sump,” Tran said.

“Much of this wastewater includes useful organic compounds like yeasts, beer and other brewing products. When mixed in a large balance tank, these are digested by bacteria in an internal circulation tank, creating biogas.”

Earlier this month, Lion announced its latest eco venture at the 140-year-old Castlemaine site: a $2 million solar power project.

It has installed 2200 solar panels, which will reduce the site’s annual carbon emissions by about 1260 tonnes, or 7% of the CO2 emissions it generates from electricity use.

Lion has committed to reducing its emissions by 30% by 2025, from a 2015 baseline.