Magic Hat® brings PurposeEnergy™
to digest waste and create energy.
By Alexander Kuno
In Vermont, the craft brewing scene is exploding! Beer drinkers from far and wide are flocking to Vermont to experience for themselves some of the most creative and flavorful craft beers in the country. While consumers get to enjoy the fruits of that labor, what they don’t see behind the scenes is just as important to keeping the industry thriving. Brewing beer is water-intensive and produces high volumes of waste water that require treatment. Magic Hat Brewing Company is the first brewer in the country to partner with PurposeEnergy to design and implement a wastewater solution that turns brewing waste into renewable energy, and ultimately reduces their environmental impact.
Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington, VT, produces nearly 180,000 barrels of beer a year. Every barrel of beer produced results between 90 and 150 gallons of byproduct wastewater, all of which runs through the custom designed and built PurposeEnergy Tribrid Bioreactor™ The MIT grads behind the PurposeEnergy technology have engineered a cutting edge system to reduce organic waste, convert byproducts to renewable energy and remove pollutants from the wastewater. For environmentally-minded brew masters such as Chris Rockwood, having a single on-site system that accomplishes all these tasks lets the brewers focus on what they do best – make great beer. “It makes my job easy,” said Rockwood. “I don’t have to worry about occasional batches of spoiled beer and the impact of everything that goes down our drains…the guys at PurposeEnergy do that for me.”
“The waste water we take from the brewery (wash water, floor drains, yeast and trub) hits our digester at a measure of about 20,000 mg/L [biochemical oxygen demand – a measure of pollutants in water], on average, which is organically 100x stronger than household waste,” said PurposeEnergy’s Vice President of Sales Todd Hasselbeck. “By the time it leaves our digester, we have cleaned the water to less than 100 mg/L. Along with large reductions in phosphorus, this helps keep Lake Champlain clean and reduces algae blooms that feed on the organic material.”
Cleaning wastewater is not the only way that the best-of-class PurposeEnergy system sustains the environment. This innovative wastewater system also produces bio-gas-derived electricity and high-nutrient fertilizer. A pump circulates the yeast, grist and hops that flow from the brewing process into the Tribrid-Bioreactor™ where they are efficiently converted to carbon-neutral biogas. The biogas is then shuttled to a 300 kilowatt power plant that provides electricity to the brewery and heat to the anaerobic process. PurposeEnergy Digester operations co-manager Alex Kuno explains that methane produced in the Magic Hat digester can satisfy between 30% and 40% of the brewery’s electricity requirements when burned in their on-site biogas generator. “And as for the solids, since there is so much high-strength waste going into our patented digester, about once every eight weeks or so, we ‘decant’ the solids that have been broken down and settled to the bottom of our digester. A local farmer will use that organic material as fertilizer to grow corn and beans.”
Together, these benefits allow the brewery to operate more efficiently, with less environmental impact, and at a significant cost savings. Which lets the brew masters at Magic Hat and PurposeEnergy achieve their true passion, which is to “save the world, one beer at a time.”
Alex Kuno works for PurposeEnergy and is the co-manager for the biodigester operation at Magic Hat Brewery.