In 2010, shortly after the completion of our brewery expansion, Eric Fitch and PurposeEnergy of Arlington, MA, finished installing a monumental piece of machinery in the back of our parking lot. It’s called a Tribrid-Bioreactor™ (the Digester), and Magic Hat was the first brewery in the world to install one.
The waste water from the brewery used to get flushed into the sewers, and that would leave us with a wicked waste water bill, and it also put a strain on the municipal wastewater treatment plant. Today, our wastewater (wash water, floor drains, yeast, trub) is piped into the Digester where bacteria converts the organic material into biogas (methane). An on-site generator converts the methane into electricity to produce about 30% of the brewery’s power (enough to power around 200 Vermont homes).
The cleaned water is then able to be flushed down the drain, far cleaner than it started, which helps to keep Lake Champlain clean and reduces the algae blooms that feed on organic waste material. (If you look at the third photo, of the black goop, that’s what the waste looks like before it’s cleaned. The water in the glass below is after filtering.)
Every eight weeks or so, we “decant” the solids that have broken down and settled inside the Digester. We usually pull out about 20 tons of the stuff, enough to fill about 2 40-yard waste containers, and it looks like rich potting soil. These solids go to a farmer outside Burlington who uses it as fertilizer on his corn and bean crops (it’s super rich in slow-release Nitrogen and Phosphorous).
Since we installed our Digester, other breweries have taken interest and more Digesters are on the way. Fitch and his team are constantly making improvements to the process. It’s an amazing technology that creates renewable energy while saving money and reducing our carbon footprint. For more information on PurposeEnergy, visit their website and read some of the articles out there on our Digester.