Environment of Beer: Left Hand Brewing, Longmont, CO

Left Hand Brewing

This is the second brewery I’ve written about, so it’s officially the start of my Environment of Beer series.

Left Hand Brewing in Longmont, CO hosted the Rocky Mountain Chapter of CHMMs for our September meeting. Our visit to the brewery included a presentation by Plant Manager, Jake Kolakowski, and a tour. It was a unique opportunity to look at the environment of a craft brewery and of course, sample good beer.


Jake Kolakowski talking about the Sepember 2013 flood.

Jake talked to us about their experience dealing with the devastating flood from September 2013. Jake told an interesting story about finding a “drum of black ooze” that settled on their property and an encounter with the EPA. He received a call from the EPA inquiring about an anonymously reported sulfuric acid spill from the brewery. Jake was surprised because the brewery doesn’t use any sulfuric acid. He invited the EPA to come check out the property. As the EPA was wrapping up their visit, Jake asked, “What do I do with that drum?” The EPA returned a little while later and hauled away the drum.

Having a group of environmental professionals on hand, someone knew the EPA guys who toured the brewery and what happened to the drum. After the flood, EPA tracked down as many orphaned containers as they could recover. They collected them at a central location, profiled the contents to identify any hazards, and sent them off for proper waste disposal. Combine a brewery, a good environmental story, and a group of CHMMs and we’ll find a connection.

Environmental Initiatives at Left Hand Brewing

The Left Hand Green Team “…strives to be environmentally conscious of our brewery’s long-term impact and be an active leader in reducing our carbon footprint, while educating and influencing our staff and customers on the importance of sustainable growth.”

You can read more here about the Left Hand Green Team’s efforts and successes in energy reduction, renewable generation, recycling, waste diversion and reducing water consumption.

Brewery Tour Through The Eyes of an Environmental Professional

Beyond the tasting room and into the brewery, it’s really no different than other industrial facilities. There are hazardous materials, in this case for keeping everything clean, water quality concerns, which is the main ingredient in beer, and all of the standard health and safety concerns – PPE, lockout/tagout, forklift driving, etc.

Jake had a good perspective on health and safety that I will definitely use during a future training class. Paraphrasing Jake, “If you’re gonna get hurt, don’t do it at work. Do it while skiing down a mountain or something fun.”

This first photo, below, of a compost and recycling container is an easy one to show Left Hand’s commitment to the environment. This was in the tasting room where we had our meeting. Recycling and composting are simple, but not everyone does it. I find recycling and composting to be a keystone to a good environmental program. If I see this, I know there is a deeper commitment elsewhere. There was also a Left Hand Green Team landfill-compost-recycling guide in the brewery. IMG_9732

Corrosives in a brewery? You bet. It’s sodium hydroxide, a base with a pH 11-13. Look at the name of the product – Heavy Duty Cleaner. As we were told during our tour, beer is a food product and keeping everything sanitary is very important.


Rinse, sanitize, acid, caustic…making a lot of good beer takes an effort to keep everything clean.

photo (1)

I like this Chemical Handling Chart that is posted in the brewery. I spend a lot of time educating people on the hazards in their workplace. This one was prominently placed and easy to read.


Thanks to Jake and Left Hand for opening up the brewery to us. If you’re interested in what I drank, I had an Oktoberfest (top photo) and a Sawtooth Nitro (below). Cheers.