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‘The first sustainable brewery in the world’: Powdered beer could cut the climate cost of your pint

Neuzelle brewery's alcohol-free beer can be made by anyone using just water and powder.
Neuzelle brewery's alcohol-free beer can be made by anyone using just water and powder. Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Hannah Brown with AFP
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70% of the climate impact of a litre of beer is bottled up in packaging and transport. This Germany brewery has an innovative solution.

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For a lot of people, cracking open an ice cold beer is a chance to switch off from the world's greater concerns.

But have you ever paused to consider the environmental impact of your pint?

Bottles, cans and kegs filled with liquid all carry significant weight. According to the Impact CO2 carbon footprint calculator, packaging and transport account for 70 per cent of the environmental impact of a litre (around two pints) of beer.

So if we can reduce the packaging size and therefore transport demands, we can massively reduce the impact of the beer industry.

And this is exactly what the Neuzelle brewery in Germany is trying to do.

Making beer at home

"We want to become the first sustainable brewery in the world," says Neuzelle owner, Stefan Fritsche.

Their revolutionary tipple made from just two elements, beer powder and water, is likely to change the way people drink beer, according to Stefan.

"Everyone can have their own home brewery" with his new invention, he tells news agency AFP, at Neuzelle’s premises near the border with Poland.

So how does it work? The powder is mixed with water. Stefan uses a handheld whisk to quickly blend the ingredients to avoid lumps and create the frothy head we expect on a beer. It’s literally that simple.

This powdered format is above all cheaper and more sustainable, according to Fritsche. Powder costs around 90 per cent less to transport than traditional beer.

With its golden hue, bittersweet notes and frothy head, this latest brew from Neuzelle looks and tastes similar to any other beer, but is non-alcoholic and has no bubbles.

Stefan is developing an alcoholic version and is eventually planning to add bubbles to make it even more beer-like.

Why invent powder beer?

Though many people won’t be enticed by an alcohol-free beer, Stefan estimates that there are several hundred million people in the world who predominantly favour alcohol-free drinks. So whilst he continues to develop an alcoholic version, there’s still a good market to tap into.

The brewer is still working with investors to roll out the powder commercially, but is hoping to start selling it within around four months. The main target market will be African and Asian countries, since a powder is far easier and cheaper to transport over long distances than bottles of beer.

The powdered format also saves time, as laboratory production is faster than traditional brewing, which takes two months on average.

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But the product may not go down too smoothly at home in Germany, which has a 500-year-old purity law around beer known as the ‘Reinheitsgebot’.

Powdered beer is a "nice innovation", but "it will not endanger or even challenge our traditional breweries", says Benedikt Meier of the Bavarian Private Breweries Association.

It is unclear whether the product could even be marketed as beer under the strict rules, which limit the ingredients to malt, hops, yeast and water.

Fritsche declines to reveal his recipe but argues that his invention is necessary in a world that needs sustainable solutions.

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Many of the large mega-breweries already transport beer as a gel-concentrate which is then watered down upon arrival. Though this is a great step towards reducing transportation emissions, the powder format has the potential to create even bigger climates savings. 

Watch the video above to learn more about this powdered beer.

Video editor • Hannah Brown

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