Craft Beer: Creating Sustainability in the Manufacturing Process


Alex Alexandrov, CEO ICC Inc

Mike Goettel, CEO Yakima Chief Hops

The artisan flavor of craft beer is a powerful force in the marketplace, yet its production processes can release literally tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the environment.

Now, a manufacturing innovation that harnesses the production cycle has been perfected, ensuring the key ingredient for this popular beverage is as positive for the environment as it is for the palate. Much like a frosty brew on a blistering hot day, the case study of Yakima Chief Hops and ICC Inc. showcases the perfect pairing of sustainability and thoughtful, profitable manufacturing practice.

Yakima Chief Hops: America’s Hops Resource

Yakima Chief Hops (YCH) is one of the industry’s premier providers of hops for the U.S. market. Committed to sustainability and environmental protection, the company saw an opportunity to create impact by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide used during the hops manufacturing process. To achieve this goal, they turned to industry-leading ICC Inc, a national manufacturing and engineering enterprise dedicated to creating efficiency and performance.

Together, the companies set to work developing an engineering solution that captures and reuses the millions of pounds of high-pressure cryogenic carbon dioxide needed in hops processing. For the YCH leadership, this mission to create more effective and sustainable processes is nothing new. YCH systematically analyzes every process that uses water and carbon dioxide and emits greenhouse gases, or impacts the environment in other ways, seeking engineering processes and other means to reduce environmental impact.

Process and Output: Engineering Sustainability

The key to customizing the manufacturing process is understanding CO2 gases are not created as a by-product of hops processing. Carbon dioxide is used to extract the essential oils from hops critical to the beer-making process. For the team at ICC Inc, the focus was on customizing a “capture” system that would pull out the high pressure cryogenic CO2.

The ICC engineering team together with its partner Hypro Group, a global manfucturer of hygienic process equipment, created a system that successfully captured the CO2 while filtering out any residual hops oils. By doing this, the system was able to re-liquefy the CO2, ensuring not only a reduction in the amount of gas released into the environment, but also that the liquefied gas was available to be recycled and re-used in the hops manufacturing process. A successful bench test provided proof of concept for the sustainably-focused system, clearing the way for full system integration.

Result and Sustainability Outcomes

The outcome of the ICC Inc and Yakima Chief Hops project has been a green light to implement, with a targeted reduction of approximately ten million pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere and up 95% recapture for re-use in production. In addition, much less CO2 will be required, saving money and reducing the number of trucks on the road needed to deliver this essential gas.

Better use of needed materials, less CO2 purchased and fewer trucks on the road – that’s a combination manufacturers and beer-lovers alike can raise a toast to.