Evaluation of the techno-economic and environmental performance of craft beer production: A case study on microbrewery

2020-03-03T20:32:29Z (GMT) by Maria Belen Salazar Tijerino
Beer has been part of the civilized culture dating back to 5,000 B.C. and it is still one of the most important beverages in many countries. Beer can be produced at different scales, nowadays, craft brewery (microbrewery) has become more popular and represents 13.2% of the beer sales in the U.S. in 2018. Nonetheless, craft brewers face many challenges due to energy efficiency, resulting in low profitability margins and poor environmental performance. Therefore, there is a necessity for tools to analyze the energy efficiency profile of microbreweries and assess potential improvement strategies based on holistic modeling. This study developed an integrated Techno-Economic Analysis (TEA) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to (i) evaluate the economic profitability of replacing the conventional steam boiler in a microbrewery facility by a continuous water heater, and (ii) compare the environmental performance of ale and lager beer brewing at commercial and pilot scales. Labor, packaging and raw materials were the major operating costs of microbrewery. The simulation results of the average electricity and natural gas uses for craft beer production agreed well with the primary measurements. The net present value and internal rate of return obtained from the TEA indicated that the investment project of new water heating system would not be profitable. Moreover, the sensitivity analysis showed that the profit margins of the water heating system increases if the microbrewery increases its productivity. Beer processing accounted for the largest portion of the global warming, terrestrial acidification, freshwater eutrophication and water consumption of craft beer, whereby fermentation and maturation operations were the main contributors. The results obtained from this study can facilitate the decision-making process of microbrewers, technology providers and stakeholders to achieve a more sustainable beer production process.