A Brewery That Creates Electricity From Producing It’s Own Beer

Magic Hat Brewery

What was once the beginning of beer-making would later become something much more than Magic Hat Brewery could every imagine.

The growth that they experienced actually reached a point at which it could no longer grow.

By the time 2007 came around, Magic Hat had been making more than 3.3 million gallons of beer per year. More than 90% of the actual product was actually water, which happened to be a major problem that the town of south Burlington, Vermont had been experiencing. The interesting thing about it is that that value doesn’t even take into account the amount of water used in cleaning and other in other areas of production as well.

The bills that the brewery accumulated amounted to about $200,000 a year, not to mention that the treatment facilities in their town had already been functioning at their full capacity. Their wanting to produce more beer was clear, but it would mean that 18,000 residents would be without water.

Inside the “Artifactory” at the Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington, Vermont. All photos by Thom Dunn/Upworthy, unless otherwise specified.

The brewery’s owners thought it would be a great idea to build a water treatment plant in order to solve that problem, but then something greater presented itself.

Eric Fitch, Founder of PurposeEnergy and former MIT graduate, approached Magic Hat with an opportunity that it couldn’t refuse.

Fitch spent some time working on a prototype that he called “tribrid bioreactor.” It was made up of three different disgester systems that only cleaned wastewater while converting the biosolid waste into electricity. 

Little did they know, Fitch had been itching to get this prototype out there to see how it would perform. Magic Hat, on the other hand, was looking for a way to grow without destroying the city’s water supply. Together, they’d later both get exactly what they’d been looking for.

Hasper Kuno of PurposeEnergy inside the company’s biogas generator at the Magic Hat Brewery.

Just how would something such as a tribrid bioreator really work?

Since a picture speaks more volumes, check out the diagram below:

Image courtesy of Magic Hat Brewery and PurposeEnergy.

“We basically allow Magic Hat to keep on expanding their production and not really be a burden on the local town,” explained Hasper Kuno, who oversees PurposeEnergy’s facility in South Burlington.

“What we send down the drain here, it’s literally cleaner than your typical household. And also we’re producing electricity on it, so it’s a no-brainer.”

In the picture above, you can see two containers being held. The black liquid (sludge) on the left is actually how the beer looks once it comes out of the digester; the clear liquid on the right is how it looks once at has gone through the system’s water clarifier.

Based on the findings of Kuno, PurposeEnergy’s tribrid bioreactor system has the ability to pump out up to 220 kilowatts of energy each day, converting 93% of the brewery’s waste into biogas and then electricity. This energy would allow them to serve over 200 average-size homes. During the past five years, they’ve been able to produce over 2.4 gigawatts of energy, two times more what it took Doc Brown to produce the Flux Capacitor that shipped his DeLorean in the future in the movie,  “Back to the Future.” You can imagine how much power that must’ve been.

“As far as we know, this is the most efficient digester in the world,” Kuno said.

As for the 7% leftover from the waste? Well, it contains enough nutrients to be used as hyper-concentrated fertilizer, which PurposeEnergy donates to all the farms in the area when it isn’t being used as soil to help grow their hops.

You can see the hops growing on the side of the water treatment tank right outback of Magic Hat Brewery without any soil as a result of the leftover biowaste. At the moment, it is being used strictly for homebrewing.

Since 2010, a handful of major brewers hopped on the bandwagon, adopting PurposeEnergy’s sustainable brewing system as well.

The Dogfish Head Brewery’s bioreactor, located in Delaware, is two times the size of Magic Hat and has a 1 million gallon system that was constructed  back in 2014, and allows them to reduce their total water usage by more than a half.

Earlier this year, back in March, PurposeEnergy was able to bring the same value to a company called Kona Brewing Company in Hawaii.

Kuno believes that other breweries will join the trend. Molson Coors, among others, currently have their own water treatment facilities in their backyard, but only have a life span of 50 years.

“When that time is up, then we’ll come in and get them a new digester,” Kuno said.

The best thing about  this method of sustainability system is that it works with more than just beer itself.

Where there is some form of organic waste, the bioreactor will be able to convert it into energy.

“We’ve got a couple of dairies that we’re hoping to install some systems,” Kuno said. “Acid whey makes a lot of electricity, and that’s the byproduct of Greek yogurt, which is huge right now.”

Just imagine, if a brewery has the ability to support an entire neighborhood with just its own beer, imagine how many other ways we can come up with that can make our planet more sustainable. 

With this form of technology, we can help make our planet a place generations to come can be proud of. Where there is a lacking, provides an opportunity for us to #Rewordit!


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