National Beer Day: now here’s a holiday I can get behind. Quite honestly I believe all beers deserve a ‘cheers’ today, but craft beer is especially deserving in my book and even more so, sustainable craft beer.

Why, you might ask? First off, craft breweries have that entrepreneurial, small business grit that always deserves a toast and a ‘heck yea!’. Secondly, their sheer existence encourages consumers to buy and drink local, for which our planet kindly thanks us all. And finally, craft breweries tend to do weird, creative, sustainable stuff simply because it’s awesome and the right thing to do.  So, here’s my ‘cheers’ list for Best of the Southeast when it comes to sustainable craft beer this National Beer Day. Check ‘em out, enjoy a cold one and tell them thanks for honoring our taste buds and our Mother Nature.

  1. Red Hare Brewing was the first craft brewery in Georgia to can its beer and the first in the world to can in certified high recycled content aluminum. Why does this matter? Because packaging beer in recycled aluminum cans means 72% fewer greenhouse gas emissions produced per package compared to glass bottled beer. Not to mention aluminum is infinitely recyclable and universally accepted at recycling facilities, while glass isn’t recycled everywhere.
  1. Apocalypse Brew Works takes sustainable brewing practices to the next level. This Louisville based brewery uses solar-heated water to craft its brews and sends leftover grain from the brewing process to local farms – and farm animals love the stuff! They recycle (duh!), the bar is made from reclaimed wood and some of the brew equipment is made from used storage containers. The walk-in freezer is second-hand and the brewery has even been known to make beers with local creek water. Sketchy? Maybe. Awesome? Definitely.
  1. Yalobusha Brewing Co. made “drink local” possible for the first time in northern Mississippi, opening the state’s first craft brewery outside the Gulf Coast and cutting down on fuel use to bring great brews to towns like Tupelo. Instead of building an all-new facility, the brewery refurbished an 1860’s building in historic downtown Water Valley, giving new life to old bricks. As the first state to enact Prohibition and the last to repeal it, Mississippi may have fallen a bit behind on the booze train but Yalobusha is quickly making up for lost time.
  1. Fonta Flora brewery, about an hour outside Charlotte, creates a totally unique North Carolina/Appalachian style of beer using local grains and wild flora foraged from the countryside – that’s right, foraged. Other local ingredients have included local bulls blood beets from Bluebird Farm of Morganton, NC, kiwis from Fox Farms, and many more. They even have a full Friends of Fonta Flora page giving a nod to the great local folks who help supply their ingredients.
  1. Great Raft Brewing was named the first bike-friendly business in the state of Louisiana by the League of American Bicyclists. The brewery encourages bicycling as an easy, sustainable option for visiting their tasting room and provides bike racks and even $1 off pints for those who arrive by bike. They even offer free bike tune-ups, cleaning and maintenance at special bike events throughout the year.

Whether it’s sustainable packaging, ingredients, practices or just plain ole good beer, I say these five deserve a toast this National Beer Day – heck, every day. These breweries are doing their part to help our planet, and in turn are helping to make us more sustainable drinkers – for that, I think we should all thank them. Cheers!

P.S. For any brewers out there looking for intel and advice on sustainable brewing practices, the folks at the Brewers Association are top notch! I highly recommend checking out their benchmarking tools and manuals, or drop me a line and I’d be happy to chat as well.

Photo Credit: Chris Monroe, CNET