The brewing industry has changed vastly in the last few hundred years. It has gone from a household chore to industrialized industry. Gone are the days of hoarded trade secrets handed down from generation to generation of family brewers. Now, breweries are posting recipes online and selling their house yeast strains for home usage. Modern innovations have also played a great role; such as cogeneration systems that utilize the methane from in-house wastewater treatment sites to provide energy for the breweries. As a nation of brewers, we have moved from the atrocities perpetrated by macro brewers like Coors (the company was sued in 1993 for several hundred air and water violations and has been fined over a million dollars) and on to wonderful new scions such as Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Great Lakes, and so many more. Today, each of these breweries host pages on their websites dedicated solely to the transparency of sustainability.
Industry practices are being helped along by invested groups such as The Brewers Association. This group has checklists and manuals for water efficiency practices and waste water management, as well as a separate manual for energy sustainability and efficiency calculators available as a free resource on their website.
Locally, Pennsylvania is quietly starting a renovation to their brewing practices. Local purveyors of base ingredients are expanding. Deer Creek Malt, located in Glen Mills, is the first Pa. malthouse since the dark days of Prohibition. They gather all grains malted within 50 miles of their location and boast over 15 different local brewers using their locally-produced malt including some of PA's best-rated breweries. Troegs, Selinsgrove Brewery, Victory, and Neshaminy Creek all use their malt in at least one of their delightful brews.
Small batch hop farmers like Holtwood Hops, sold in Philadelphia and harvested in Lancaster County, are providing direct source hops for microbreweries and homebrewers. Cultivating over 25 different cultivars, they provide a great service for those in the city unable to start their own hop farm like all those homebrews living in South Philly.
Our own Yards Brewing Co. lays claim to the title of First Pa. Wind-Powered Brewery. Take the tour and talk to the guides for a slew of informative decisions made by a great Philadelphia brewery, such as the fact that their packaging is approved by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. This Initiative is a third party independent auditor for many different products and shows consumers which products meet their rigorous standards for maintaining "ecosystem biodiversity…sustainable harvests and respect for local communities, and much more."
On almost every brewery website today, one can read tales of sustainable practices and keeping the community green. It'd be a difficult task to find an industry more inclined to take steps to provide the forethought in their practices which the beer industry does.