A brewery in the west Seattle neighborhood of White Center has recently installed a solar thermal system to aid in the brewing process of its artisanal beer. Big Al Brewing owners Noelle and Alejandro (Al) Brown recently threw the switch on the new solar thermal system and thus began the company’s first batch of solar beer, which is due to hit local taps in a couple of weeks.

According to an article published by Deanie Schwarz for White Center Now, a West Seattle Blog (WCN/WSB), the Browns purchased the brewing site, previously owned by Pacific Rim Brewery, in 2008. Since the brewery was built over 12 years ago, little about it could be considered sustainable or efficient, but the Browns were obviously determined to change that. Much like the 30 plus other breweries in the Seattle area, the Browns relied on natural gas as a water heating source. With the new solar thermal system they’ve installed,  they’ll be reducing their use of natural gas to a bare minimum.

image via Big Al Brewing

As part of the brewing process, huge batches of water must be heated to a high temperature. With their previous system, the brewmasters at Big Al’s had to leave the gas burning all night long in order to get the water up to temperature. Now, the solar thermal system, which uses a series of tubes to harness solar energy and heat water, has the water nearly ready to use when brewers walk in in the morning via leftover heat from the day before. With the water already up around 150 degrees fahrenheit, only a small amount of natural gas heating is required to get the water to its goal temperature.

Not only does the solar thermal system stand to considerably reduce Big Al’s energy costs, but it will apparently double the brewery’s production capacity, since roughly 500 gallons of heated water is constantly on stand-by. Now that the brewery will be able to turn out two barrels of beer in the time that it once took to produce one, profits will hopefully boom. The brewery will need the extra capital to help pay for the new system, since tax credits and incentives, for solar thermal systems at least, are reportedly not available in King County, Washington.

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