Adnams of Southwold is leading the way in 'environmental' brewing. They have revolutionised their brewhouse, built an eco-friendly distribution centre, and recently produced 'East Green', the UK's first carbon neutral beer. Liaison with the University of East Anglia (UEA) has enabled them to understand the complex nature and range of emissions arising from the brewing and distribution of beer.

The distribution centre, on the outskirts of Southwold, opened in October 2006, and comprises a 1.5 acre warehouse and an adjacent smaller building for cellar services and vehicle maintenance. These are set in an 85 acre site which was purchased, with great foresight, in 1996. The buildings cost some 15% more than a conventional build, but, in the long term the savings will be enormous (especially with increasing energy costs).

The first 2.1m of the walls are of standard brick (to withstand vehicular contact!), and this supports special blockwork covered with a lime mortar render, and clay-based paint on the outside. The blocks consist of quarry waste, lime and hemp, the latter having excellent mechanical insulation. Between the two 'skins' of blockwork there is a sprayed mixture of uncompacted lime and more hemp. The wall, which is 45mm thick, has a U-value of 0.18 (the standard regulatory requirement is 0.35). Adnams calculate that the wall itself has captured some 150 tonnes of CO2 - whereas traditional building materials would have added 600 tonnes to the atmosphere (the UK puts 500 million tonnes of CO2 annually into the atmosphere). The roof is also innovatory, and consists of 16 single-span curves (each 48 m long) of laminated and glued Swedish softwood ('Glulam'). These beams are necessarily supported by steel columns, and they require twenty-four times less energy to produce than equivalent steelwork, and lock up more CO2. On top, galvanised corrugated sheet is covered with a bed of Sedum, forming Britain's largest green roof. Water run-off is collected for washing vehicles, and toilet-flushing. Solar panels in the roof provide 80% of the hot water needs of the building. The new warehouse has eliminated some 80-odd van and lorry movements in Southwold town centre each day, as well as the movements of 60 employee cars.

The new, state-of-the-art, Huppmann brewhouse encompasses an energy-recovery system that allows 100% of the steam generated during brewing to be captured and used to provide 90% of the heat needed for the next brew. The plant is well insulated and gives an overall 50% savings in energy consumption. It also permits more efficient use of raw materials, and wort extraction from malt is now 98% (from 90% on a good day), and the hop utilisation rate has risen from 24% to 34%.

Another recent innovation by Adnams has been the development of a new lightweight bottle. Their original 'new look' 500ml bottle weighed in at 445g, and this figure has been reduced to 299g, which represents a reduction in glass usage of 624 tonnes annually. The annual reduction of carbon footprint is calculated at 415 tonnes, which is equivalent of taking about 138 cars off the road for a year. 138 cars off the road equates to Adnams taking their whole sales force off the road and neutralising all employee commuting, to and from work, for a year!

Andy Wood, Adnams' MD, commented: "Adnams has always passionately believed in 'doing things right' and East Green is the latest example of our efforts to reduce our environmental impact in everything we do. Every stage in the development of East Green, from the growing of the hops to the packaging, has been designed to minimise our carbon emissions as far as possible. The remaining carbon, which equates to less than 1p per bottle, has been offset with Climate Care".

Andy continues, "We've reduced the carbon, but we certainly haven't compromised on the flavour. Light golden in colour with subtle citrus and grassy hop aromas, East Green is a beer with all the quality and taste that Adnams is famous for."

The recently established Mill Green Brewery in Suffolk has lofty aims to be the 'greenest' brewery in the land. Built next to the celebrated White Horse, Edwardstone, near Sudbury (long famed for its dedication to dark mild ales), it is the brainchild of local grain merchant John Norton (proprietor of Castlings Heath cider) , and Colchester architect James Robinson. John has for some while been an advocate of organic produce, and regards a green brewery and pub as being a logical extension of his ideals. In addition to the new brewhouse, an extension, The Green Room, has been built onto the existing pub. Like the brewhouse it is constructed from reclaims and renewables.

The brewery is built on the site of an old cattle shed, and has the same floor dimensions. The floor consists of a lightweight clay aggregate, and any bricks come from demolished buildings. The building is timber-framed, with clayboard walls on the ground floor, and lime plaster over wooden wasteboard on the first floor walls (a modern version of lath and plaster). At present, there is no connection to mains electricity, and all necessary power comes from solar panels in the roof (some 25m2 of them), and a very efficient 'Froling Turbo 3000' wood-burning boiler. Energy from solar panels and the boiler is transferred to a 30hl. 'Akvaterm' accumulator tank (thermal store) until required. The wood-burner uses coppiced wood from nearby Groton Wood. Energy requirements can be supplemented by wind power, which is capable of delivering an average of 6kW daily. Most of the wind turbine output is used in the pub at the moment, but when connection to the mains has been made, any surplus will go to the grid, via the eco-friendly Good Energy Ltd., the UK's only supplier of 100% renewable energy.

The brewhouse itself consists of a 4.5 barrel plant supplied by Brendan Moore, of Iceni Brewery fame. There is a mash-tun, with a single false-bottom plate; a copper, designed for use with whole hops; a paraflow refrigerator; a fermentation vessel, and a couple of the ubiquitous ex-Federation Brewery tanks for beer storage. Malt is bought in ready-crushed from Muntons of Stowmarket and is stored on the first floor of the building. Hops arrive via Worcestershire firm, Charles Faram, but it is hoped that they can be sourced from locally-grown plants in future (John has plans to grow his own hops). A 'Nottingham Ale' yeast is used for fermentation. Brewing began in August this year, and, at present, two beers are brewed: a 3.5% ABV 'Bulls Cross Bitter', and the pale 'Lovely's Fair' at 4%. At the time of writing, these beers are only available at the White Horse and at local beer festivals, although there are plans to deliver within a fifteen mile radius of the brewery. The White Horse contains what must be the most eco-friendly and elegant 'smoking facility' on the planet - complete, as it is with a Sedum lawn roof! As a bonus, the pub is now being run by Suffolk CAMRA stalwarts Roger and Berni Waters.

The White Horse (which still proudly bears an 'Oliver Bros - Ales and Stout' sign on its road frontage wall, can also offer extensive camping facilities and a couple of holiday cottages - essential if you wish to participate in one of their beer festivals. The Oliver Brothers brewery was situated in Cornard Road, Sudbury, and, together with its fifty-one licensed houses, was purchased by Greene King in 1919. Brewing on the Sudbury site ceased in June 1932.