Brewing up Sustainability: Woodfour Brewing Company

(Sunbeams shine down on the Congenra solar collectors on the roof of Woodfour bewery at the Barlow in Sebastopol. The collectors produce both fuel-free hot water and clean electricity for the brewing operation.)

The Barlow opening in Sebastopol is a big deal. It’s a wonderful new dimension to the Sebastopol community. And there are some big deals within the Barlow like Woodfour Brewing Company that has taken serious steps to walk the sustainability talk.

Seth Wood, the co-owner and operator of Woodfour is proud of what they’ve done in an effort to embrace sustainability in their operations. He explains that the system they installed is a Cogenra Solar system, a co-generation system that produces both clean electricity and hot water from sunshine. “Our main interest in the system is to offset our hot water demands and the system does this well while also producing solar-electric energy, enough to operate the system as well as feed surplus power to the grid.”

The system is similar to one installed by the Sonoma Wine Company in 2011. In that system, fifteen modules displace approximately 64,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 12,500 therms of natural gas annually. The solar thermal element heats water to 165°F for the wine tank cleaning and barrel washing system.

In the case of Woodfour, Seth explains a somewhat different hot water need. “As a brewery our hot water demand is fairly substantial. We use hot water directly for the brewing process; beer is 98% water after all, as well as general cleaning. The system was designed to provide us with ~180°Fwater directly and during peak times should offset nearly 90% of our hot water demands, greatly reducing our dependence on natural gas.”

Water so hot, it needs to be cooled…

“On top of providing hot water for the brewery the system is integrated into our overall hydronic system for the restaurant and supplies, the kitchen, bathroom, and bar with hot water. In fact we have to temper the hot water down to manageable temperature at these location so as not to scald guests and employees.”

Multiple benefits…

“In addition to direct hot water usage we installed a radiant heating system under the floor slab of the restaurant so that during the winter months we will utilize the hot water from the solar system to provide all of the energy required to heat and condition the space!”

There’s more to come!

“Some further steps we are taking to improve our efficiency and sustainability including connecting hot water discharge points in the brewing system back into the overall hydronic system so that we can reclaim expended energy from the brewing process and further use that to offset our hot water demands.”

Woodfour demonstrates that just about any business can take action to address the climate crisis at the micro level. In this case, micro-brew level. At Woodfour you can enjoy an extensive selection of draft and bottled beers and pair it with excellent food sourced locally and prepared fresh by acclaimed chefs Jamil Peden and Matthew. Find out more at woodfourbrewing.com.

Woody Hastings
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