Up the Mountain, Down to Earth

To live in Asheville is to be part a give and take. It gives to you right away - you ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway, try a trail, see a sunset. In as many ways we take in our surroundings, we look for ways to give back. Environmental sustainability is one way to do that. (Community involvement is another way to give back - which we love and you can read about here.)
A long and admittedly soon-to-be-out-of-date list of what we do to reduce environmental impact:

The latest:

  • Beautiful 16-foot white oak bartops in the Event Center were harvested from our 40-acre property. Installed April 2017.
  • 3rd largest craft brewing solar array in the USA (Solar Resource Guide, 2016)
  • 13th largest brewery solar array in the world (Solarplaza, November 28, 2016)
  • Our rooftop bar decking is natural, untreated cypress, a tree that grows in water and can withstand rain and sun.
  • The light pole bases in front of the event center are made from irreparable kegs


January 1, 2015

Highland Brewing Goes Solar

to view real time data being produced from our solar panel system.

After years of planning, many of Highland Brewing's operations are now powered by the sun. Under partly cloudy skies on December 31, 2014, 1,045 panels went live and the 250 kW inverter hummed, converting the solar panels' DC current into approximately 105 kW of AC current for the brewery. Under peak conditions the system can create up to 324 kW DC. This is more power than we can use we are offsetting all of our usage and more. The 180,000 square-foot building has a large, flat roof that required many repairs before the solar installation could begin. As these repairs took place, it became clear that capturing the sun's energy was feasible and environmentally responsible. The expansive roof is now about half covered by panels and is in full view from the rooftop bar. We can monitor solar power generation from our phones. Kevin Wheeler, Highland's Operations Manager, and Brock Ashburn, owner of Ashburn Builders, managed the solar project. "The repairs weren't a big deal and the solar installation was smooth. After all the discussion, planning, and groundwork, this is a great feeling," said Ashburn. It is part of a multi-million dollar expansion which includes a new bottling line, new cooler, new production areas, and vast improvements to the guest experience. The rooftop bar and other guest areas are being constructed with help from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, which awarded Highland a matching grant of $850,000.
Infrastructure and planning are now underway to channel rainwater from the roof and use it for greywater, irrigation, and possibly additional power production.

• In the Brewing Process
➢ Spent grain, spent yeast, used hops and our filter media are used as cow feed
➢ Purchase bulk grain, thereby reducing packaging
➢ Recycle the paper bags that contain specialty grains
➢ Created our own Clean in Place system to recapture water and cleaning chemicals, which reuses water and reduces water usage by over 1,000 gallons per week
➢ Reduce energy usage with a heat exchanger, which reclaims heat from boiled wort and transfers it to hot water for next batch
➢ Retrofitted dairy tanks to use as our original bright tanks
➢ Sold those dairy tanks to a local biodiesel manufacturing company when we moved to our current location. They turn used vegetable oil into fuel
➢ Use a high efficiency boiler that far exceeds regulated emission levels. It has one of the lowest emissions of any available boiler

• Packaging
➢ Channel keg washer rinse water to rinse the floor
➢ New automated keg line saves water over manual rinsing by reusing wash water and increases efficiency with water use. And it makes our Packaging team happy since it now takes two people one day to do what used to require four people doing back-breaking work for a week
➢ Choose suppliers as close to the brewery as possible to support our neighbors. Both mother cartons and 12 packs are manufactured within an hour of the plant to reduce transportation emissions
➢ Chose a label manufacturer that is 10 minutes away
➢ Save all packaging, boxes, roll cores, plastic bags, for reuse on our next run
➢ Purchase most of our equipment used and refurbish it ourselves. Our keg washer came from Bell's. The case closer/taper on the bottling line is a Highland original
➢ We repurpose equipment that would potentially end up in a landfill. The half keg used to rinse bottles is an in-house invention. Good use of a bad keg!

• Distribution
➢ Our distribution has spread organically so we are not shipping beer all over the country
➢ 65% of our business is in WNC
➢ Bar code keg-tracking system to collect and re-use kegs as much as possible
➢ One-day shipments

• General Operations
➢ Recyclable cups
➢ Encourage draft-reducing waste by reusing kegs
➢ Ethos of reduce, reuse, recycle throughout company
➢ Use of variable frequency drives to reduce energy consumption
➢ We take advantage of programs from the state and the utility companies to provide energy audits, for natural gas, steam boilers, electricity, etc.
➢ We have a great respect for the ingredients that go into our product as well, and they all come from having a sustainable, clean, and healthy environment
➢ The main ingredients in beer are Barley/Hops/Water/and Yeast.  All of which are natural ingredients that thrive in a healthy global environment
➢ We have a fabrication shop and save parts/metal/etc. to reduce waste and consumerism
➢ We are in the process of evaluating our energy inputs, and other inputs, tracking them over time, in order to find new ways to conserve
➢ We have talked with green manufacturing consultants for further help
➢ We rehabbed an old warehouse building instead of building a new structure
➢ We have a sewage pretreatment system to help alleviate the pressure on our MSD
➢ We have a recycling program company wide, glass, containers, paper and cardboard
➢ We are active in the “Local” and environmental sustainability movements,which involve us deeply in the community
➢ Switched out all halogen lights with T-5 fluorescent lights, cutting light energy usage in half

•  Future Plans
➢ CO2 recovery system
➢ Anerobic digester to produce methane for boiler and heat, reduce effluent load to sewer system and reclaim water to use for general and process cleaning.  Solids can be used as compost
➢ Additional windows and solar tubes to augment electrical lighting
➢ Stack condenser/heat exchanger
➢ Increased reduction in inputs-water-packaging-energy
➢ Compost system
➢ Working closer with a green manufacturing consultant
➢ Find more ways to recycle waste products, such as shrink wrap/banding material
➢ Energy offsets