Friday, February 28, 2014

Santa Fe Brewing Company: Resource Consciousness in the Desert

If you find yourself in Albuquerque, take the 45 minute drive North to visit the great folks at Santa Fe Brewing Company (brewery tours are offered on Saturdays at Noon). They have a small tasting room and big ideas when it comes to brewery sustainability in the desert.  Our guide was brewer, Leif Rotsaert, who started at Santa Fe Brewing Company making 6 pack boxes when he was nineteen years old, worked his way up to brewer and now focuses on cellaring. He has seen the brewery grow into what it is today and he shared some of the ways they are resource conscious when making craft beer.

Reduce: Time and Beer Loss
We happened to be at the brewery at a time when they were trying out a traveling centrifuge which is designed to which speed up filtration time, reduce oxidation and increase beer yield.  Apparently, there are only four of these components in the country and the waiting list to get one is around two years.  While the use of the centrifuge has been used since the 1860’s, primarily in the milk industry, the sheer size of the machinery was prohibitive until the modern versions were scaled down.  The one Santa Fe Brewing Company had was small enough to fit on a pallet. The centrifugal force is used to speed up secondary fermentation by quickly separating out trub (sediment particles from grain, yeast, hops and other additives) to clarify beer.  It’s designed to operate continuously and process around 90 gallons in an hour. One thing to note is that using a centrifuge system may damage yeast cell viability for future use so there is a potentially negative consequence in using this technology.

Reuse: Dregs
We shared a delicious bottle of Santa Fe’s Single Barrel Sour Ale with Leif.  When we finished the bottle he asked if we liked balsamic vinegar, which we do, so he took the empty bottle back and filled with beer vinegar created from barrel dregs that were aerated and aged. While we have to let it age a bit longer, it definitely picked up the barrel flavor and made wonderful vinaigrette.  We were told we could try this at home as all one needs to do is aerate the barrel dregs with an aquarium pump and wait patiently for it age while keeping it out of the sun.

Recycle: Water
As one can imagine, chilling wort quickly in the desert has its challenges --especially if your water is a gravity system stored above ground where the heat of the day warms it to the air temperature.  Santa Fe has its own well so their water stays around 50°. They use glycol (a food grade anti-freeze) jacketed tanks and heat exchangers to cool their wort which helps in reducing water usage, a must in desert regions.

In selecting Santa Fe Brewing Company beer, you can rest assured that while enjoying some great craft beer you are also supporting a brewery that uses resources wisely, reduces waste and are good stewards of the environment... and are some super nice folks too boot!


  1. this website has lost everything since Pat left...why are we promoting a poor article like this.... I'm going to go buy some Sante Fe lol

  2. Damn! I wish I could go visit them. They make some great beers and I've always heard that Santa Fe is a super cool town. You don't think much about breweries' water supplies, but I guess it might be turning into a big problem in California if the drought continues like it is now. It's easy to forget that California used to be mostly desert...