This is the fifth post in our Green Spirit Awards monthly blog series, highlighting breweries, wineries and distilleries in the Southeast using clean energy to create tasty, sustainable beverages. You can read the other blogs in this series by clicking here. Cheers!
In a state famous (infamous?) for its fine spirits, drive through daiquiri shops, and some of the loosest liquor laws in the country, Louisiana’s reverence for a good local brew is admirable. If bumbling on Bourbon Street isn’t your cup of tea, just about an hour north of New Orleans, and across the 24-mile Lake Pontchartrain causeway, Abita Springs feels like a small oasis town sprung up in the middle of the swamp. The city’s namesake and local freshwater source, Abita Springs, has drawn humankind to travel to this particular corner of Louisiana for centuries. But chances are, if you find yourself in Abita Springs, you’re there to send your tastebuds on a hop-and-malt-laden journey at the Abita Brewing Company.
Abita Brewing Company depends on the high-quality, local freshwater resources drawn from deep water wells to concoct a number of beers and root beer. While the company’s color scheme is purple and gold (an homage to Mardi Gras royalty colors), the company is dedicated to crafting “green” beer. Environmental sustainability is at the heart of Abita’s brewery process. According to the company: “Conserving energy and water, reusing by-products and waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, driving greener vehicles and using recycled materials are some of the ways Abita is working to keep our part of the world green and clean.”
Some of Abita’s energy sustainability practices include a brewery process that uses 70% less energy and reuses steam, an onsite wastewater treatment system that captures renewable “bio-gas” to fuel boilers, and a solar panel system that was considered one of the largest in the state when it was installed. While the sun can cause dehydration, solar power uses no water to generate electricity, and thus conserves water. And because its local water resource is so pristine, Abita doesn’t need to use filters or chemicals to clean its water.
But trouble may be brewing just below the surface.
If you visit the Abita Brewery (and it’s highly recommended that you do), you may notice a number of signs all around the parish: Don’t Frack St. Tammany. St. Tammany Parish, like many other communities and parishes around Louisiana, is faced with additional oil and gas drilling activities. In particular, horizontal hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) for natural gas and other petroleum products is fairly ubiquitous throughout Louisiana. The process drills deep wells, turns those pipes horizontally for maximum pipe length in a geologic formation, and then detonates explosive charges deep underground to further release petroleum products. From 2010-2015, a special state subsidy provided specifically for fracking in Louisiana cost the state over $1 billion. Among potential threats caused by fracking and its associated activities include the risk of harming local freshwater resources, significant extraction and depletion of local freshwater resources, and some states have even seen a significant increase in earthquakes.
The Southern Hills Aquifer system, where Abita sources its freshwater, also faces threat from saltwater intrusion. As freshwater resources are depleted in an aquifer, the resultant void can draw in nearby salt water resources, if those fresh resources are not allowed to slowly recharge. If an aquifer becomes tainted with saltwater intrusion, whether by extreme depletion or perhaps rising sea levels, there’s little that can be done to reverse the damage. Homes, businesses and certainly breweries that rely on clean, freshwater aquifers cannot survive on saltwater-infected water sources.
In a direct way, the safety, security and health of the local water resources is good for business, and the local economy. Abita Brewing Company is an example of a business using local resources responsibly, not just for their own self-interest, but for the betterment of the greater community. Working in concert with nature, Abita sure makes some tasty suds. And that’s why we’re awarding Abita the coveted Green Spirit Award. C’est bon and laissez les bon temps roulez!