Daily Environment Repost Urban Environmentalist

Beer and cannabis: A dynamic duo

Many college students will attest to the natural partnership between beer and cannabis. They are, of course, responding to the consumer end of the equation. However, on the production side of the equation, natural chemistry between the two allows for the micro-management of greenhouse gases. Specifically, carbon dioxide (CO2) production and sequestration temporarily balance each other out.

Small business is one of the engines of innovation in the American economy. A craft beer brewer in Denver, Colorado, a technology company in Austin, and a marijuana producer in Denver created a business proposition that tests an innovative method of managing CO2.

The technology at the heart of the venture is a refrigerator-sized piece of equipment that captures, purifies, chills, and stores the liquid CO2. The business opportunity this technology creates, then paves the way to mingle the production of beer and cannabis. 

Beer production

Homebrewers all recognized the smell of success. In their primary fermentation vats, billions of tiny yeast cells are hard at work, doing the brewers bidding and magically turning malted grain into alcohol. The road to great beer starts with good grain, usually barley. The first step is the grain harvesting, then comes the malting process.

Malting is the process of soaking the grain in some water and then letting it start to germinate. It is a delicate process, and a good malt master will know precisely when to stop the germination by heating the barley to more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The amount of heat applied determines many of the final characteristics of the beer.

The next step involves creating the mash, a combination of water, and barley malt that is heated up. When the mash is heated, starches from the malted grain convert to both fermentable and non-fermentable sugars. Mashing at lower temperatures results in more fermentable sugars. After mashing, filtration of the mash produces a wort with concentrated sugars. 

Once the wort is processed through boiling, then the transformation begins. The brewer adds yeast to the solution, thus starting the primary fermentation where sugars convert to alcohol and CO2. If you venture into a room full of primary fermentation vats, then you will understand the prodigious amount of CO2 produced at this stage of the beer brewing process. So, beer drinkers automatically acquire a larger carbon footprint with each glass of beer they consume.

The beer brewing process finishes off with a secondary fermentation and some filtration. Then the beer is bottled and off to your refrigerator. 

Eliminating the carbon footprint

Technology comes to the rescue, helping hapless beer drinkers ease their environmental consciousness and reduce their carbon footprint. The converter, produced by Earthly Labs, takes the CO2, liquefies it, and stores it in 750-pound tanks. 

Now the beer and cannabis connection comes into play. Across town from the brewery is a cannabis business working hard, and supplying a high demand market.  Their daily work is gardening and growing marijuana. 

Like all plants, marijuana requires CO2 and sunlight to work the photosynthesis process and grow. The plant sequesters the CO2 as organic carbon, and the larger the plant then, the more carbon it sequesters. It turns out that when the amount of CO2 available to marijuana increases, the grass grows faster. So, this is the cannabis business version of increasing production efficiency.

The cannabis greenhouse then purchases the 750-pound container of CO2 from the brewery and feeds it to their plants. Thus, the brewer makes money selling a product that was previously just a waste byproduct. Then, a reduction in carbon emissions takes place, easing the conscience of the beer drinker. Finally, the cannabis business gets its product to market more quickly, allowing for higher annual production and sales. 

So far, we have a win-win-win situation. We can only hope that no one burns the cannabis.


Instead of releasing this greenhouse gas, beer brewers are selling it to pot growers (By Jennifer Oldham; Washington Post) – https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/instead-of-releasing-this-greenhouse-gas-beer-brewers-are-selling-it-to-pot-growers/2020/02/11/cf1410ae-49c3-11ea-b4d9-29cc419287eb_story.html Also:

The Chemistry Behind Beer Flavor (By Caitlin Beddows; Elsevier SciTech Connect)- http://scitechconnect.elsevier.com/chemistry-behind-beer-flavor/ Also:

Feature Image: Cannabis and Beer Brewery Tour (By By My 420 Tours – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0) (Modified) – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69376356

William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.