This Aussie Craft Brewery Uses Algae To Cut Emissions!

Sep 02, 2021by Olivia - F&F

What do fluorescent algae, craft beer and climate change have in common? The answer is Sydney-based brewery, Young Henrys! 

In collaboration with scientists from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Young Henrys co-founders — Oscar McMahon, Richard Adamson and Dan Hampton — have developed a way to use microalgae to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the beer fermentation process and transform it into oxygen. Cheers to that!

The Algae Project | Young Henrys + UTS

Did you know that the CO2 produced from the fermentation of just one six-pack of beer takes a tree two full days to absorb? With this alarming fact in mind, the team at Young Henrys brewery began working with the UTS Climate Change Cluster (C3) in early 2020 to come up with a solution — using algae!

It’s all part of Young Henrys goal to become a sustainable leader in the brewing industry. “Every step in our brewing process is operated by the most sustainable means possible, and this new algae initiative is a prime example,” says Young Henrys.

“We began working with the UTS Climate Change Cluster on this project as they are developing numerous real-world uses for algae which can help combat climate change,” said Oscar McMahon. 

How Does It All Work?

So, how does a fluorescent green, algae-filled bioreactor tank reduce the emissions in the beer brewing process? Well, it all comes down to the slimy green superweapon — algae. Ocean-based algae, like kelp, spirulina and nori, actually consume around 50% of the world’s CO2. Much like land-based trees, algae absorbs the CO2 and transforms it into the oxygen that we breathe. The 400L bioreactors installed at Young Henrys Newtown brewery are swarming with microalgae. Each millilitre contains around 5 million microalgae (or phytoplankton) cells! 

“Together, we’ve developed a method of using CO2, which is a by-product of the brewing process, to feed the algae housed in the bioreactors in on our brew floor. This reduces our emissions as a business,” McMahon explained. Amazingly, a 400L microalgae bioreactor installed in Young Henrys brewery produces as much oxygen as one hectare of Australian forest!

Young Henrys Natural LagerYoung Henrys Natural Lager

Beer That Isn’t Harming The Planet — Cheers To That!

Many of us are becoming aware of the sustainable and not-so-sustainable practices associated with the foods and drinks that we love. When you’re sipping on a frothy beer, wouldn’t be great to know that the process involved in making the beverage created zero emissions? 

“We were inspired by the work the C3 group were doing and wanted to get involved. Some of the skills we have as brewers managing yeast have an analogue in growing algae — it’s almost like they have an inverse relationship,” explained Richard Adamson.

“We thought it would be worth exploring how microalgae could work in a brewing operation to lower our carbon footprint and produce real-world solutions”.

Future of AlgaeFuture of Algae

The Future Of Algae Is Looking Bright (+ Green!)

What does the future look like for Young Henrys and its amazing algae? Well, the team are looking at ways to scale up the entire process for other breweries to adopt. By doing so, other micro-breweries — and even national breweries — can implement the algae project and offset their emissions. 

Young Henrys are also looking at ways to profit from the excess algae by incorporating it into health food products, pharmaceuticals and bioplastics — So many possibilities! 

“There are huge economic opportunities in reducing emissions. In terms of numbers, the emissions reductions aren’t hugely significant but it’s really going to be about the application of the algae and how we can scale it up in the urban environment,” Adamson explained to the Climate Council. “That’s where we’ll really start to see the impact.”

Oh, and did we mention that Young Henrys will be powered by 100% renewable energy by the end of 2021? The team at Young Henrys are certainly proving that brewing delicious beer doesn’t have to cost the Earth!

Head to Young Henrys’ website to find out more about their commitment to sustainability — you can even order some cheeky bevvies while you’re at it!

For more inspiring stories of sustainable innovation, head to the Eco News category and check out the blogs below. 

Here’s How Scientists Are Transforming Food Scraps Into Building Materials

These Recycled Skateboard Wheels Are Made From… Chewing Gum!

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