Insulation Helps Keep the Carbon Footprint Small—and the Beer Tasty—at Award-Winning New Belgium Brewing Company

Ann Hennigan Grace

Ann Hennigan Grace is a freelance writer and editor in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area. In addition to articles in this magazine, her experience includes researching, writing, and editing proposals, white papers, marketing materials, technical documentation and training/educational materials, medical and scientific publications, and book manuscripts. She has worked on projects for government and private-sector clients ranging from New York Times best-selling authors to the U.S. Marine Corps, the Defense Health Agency, and the National Institutes of Health. She can be reached at

March 1, 2020

New Belgium Brewing Company—maker of Belgian-inspired brews including Fat Tire Belgian Style Ale—is an award-winning brewery with nationwide distribution throughout the United States, plus sales in Canada and Australia, that is committed to making sure its business practices are as good as its beer. This is a company that describes “Sustainability in Strategic Alignment” on its website, linking its strategic plan to clearly stated core company values and beliefs. Even its logo features an iconic visual of sustainability—the bicycle.

When you are this intentional—and public—about your commitment to socially and environmentally conscious business practices, people will expect more than words, and New Belgium lives up to its hype. Engineering News-Record (ENR) Southeast awarded New Belgium’s $140 million Asheville, North Carolina, brewery “Best Project” in the
Manufacturing category in November 2016,1 as the company pursued U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for its 131,000-sq.ft. brewery, 5,000-sq.ft. tasting facility (the Liquid Center), and distribution center (located in Candler, North Carolina).

In July 2017, the brewery tweeted the news that it had “earned a trifecta of LEED certifications”² at the 3 facilities: The Liquid Center tasting room achieved Platinum certification, the brewery is Gold, and the distribution center is Silver. At the time, Jay Richardson, New Belgium’s Asheville General Manager, was quoted in local media stating, “Building with environmental health in mind aligns with our values as a company, so it was an early and quick decision to do the work to certify the buildings.”³

Along with green building best practices such as using materials recycled and repurposed from the original buildings the company tore down to clear its 18-acre site, and incorporating design elements including natural ventilation and a solar hot water system, insulation plays a key role in meeting process efficiency and sustainability goals. NIA members Armacell, ITW (now Johns Manville), and Dover Insulation coordinated with architecture and design firm Perkins + Will, general contractor Adolfson and Peterson Construction, plumbing and mechanical design firm Integral Group, and mechanical contractor Century Contractors during planning and construction of the award-winning campus. Laura Dover, LEED AP+ and President of Dover Insulation, said, “New Belgium Brewing is the ideal customer, from the perspective of a mechanical insulation contractor. At the highest level, they place great value on the importance of insulation in conserving energy and in process control. They specify excellent insulation systems, hold the insulators to high installation standards, and prioritize keeping insulation repaired and updated on a regular basis. We are honored to be part of their ongoing and active energy conservation program.”

The brewery has elastomeric (Armacell’s AP Armaflex®) insulation on the HVAC, chilled water lines, and refrigeration systems to help achieve thermal efficiency; as well as polyisocyanurate (polyiso) (Johns Mansville’s TRYMER® 2000XP with Saran Jacket) on all systems except the steam and condensate, blow down piping, and chemical feed piping, which required calcium silicate pipe covering. With the buildings’ large and varied temperatures for different uses—such as the distribution center’s refrigeration and the heat created by the brewing vats—the HVAC distribution system and the ability for process heat recovery were essential in keeping energy use low.

Practically speaking, though, all the process efficiency would accomplish little if the final product—the brews—did not live up to customer expectations. Temperature is critical in beer production. For instance, the brew kettle captures steam and warms the water coming into the mash-ton. Without the proper equipment and insulation, this would not work. Insulation is basically a giant koozie!

From the continued commitment to sustainability expressed in words and actions, the overall message is clear: At New Belgium Brewing Company, a lot of thought, planning, and execution goes into protecting both the environment and the quality of its product.