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Beer maker sees green from start to finish

Having fun, brewing world class beer, promoting beer culture and being environment stewards are the ground rules for one Colorado brewery. For 16 years, it's served them well. NBC's Jennifer London reports.

At the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colo., it's time to raise a glass for beer brewed with a conscience.

Kim Jordan is co-founder of New Belgium. When she and her husband, Jeff, first started brewing beer in their basement back in 1991, they set a few ground rules.

"Having fun, brewing world class beer, promoting beer culture and being environment stewards," Kim says, recounting the rules.

Sixteen years and 300 employees later, New Belgium is now the nation's third largest mid-sized brewery, and its corporate soul is still very much intact.

"Success here is about more than just the bottom line," Kim says. "It's also about the 'Three R's:'" reduce, reuse, recycle.

The brew kettles at New Belgium use 65 percent less energy than a standard brew kettle, spent grain goes to a local cattle farmer, and, perhaps most surprising, the brewery turns waste water into energy.

"We have bacteria that are doing the 'cleaning" of the waste water,' Brandon Weaver says. "They're consuming the pollutants — giving off a bio-product which is methane-rich gas."

The methane gas is then used to produce 15 percent of the brewery's electricity needs. The rest comes from wind.

New Belgium saves $3,000 a month on electricity bills, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by eight million pounds a year.

The single largest ingredient in beer is water. And as part of its commitment to conservation, New Belgium uses 50 percent less than the industry average. The brewery also uses desks made from old FedEx tubes, the building is constructed from reclaimed timber, and solar tubes light the warehouse.

"We do what we do in terms of environmental best practices because it's deeply meaningful to us," Kim Jordan says.

And New Belgium's customers prove profits can be in good taste with nurturing mother nature.