A handful of Wisconsin breweries are striving for the top reputation in sustainability.

Lakefront Brewery was the first in the state to receive the Travel Green Wisconsin certification in 2007. Good old Milwaukee Brewing Company has an entire webpage dedicated to showcasing all the ways they brew green and their plans for future environmentally friendly upgrades.

Still, one brewery stands out most to me as the one with the greenest thumb, as the one who puts values before profits: Central Waters Brewing Company in Amherst, Wis.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources awarded Central Waters with Tier 1 status in Wisconsin’s Green Tier program in May 2011 for their efforts toward sustainability. This status puts Central Waters in a special category as the nation sees a rise of breweries.

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“There are more breweries in the U.S. than there has ever been,” Paul Graham, president of Central Waters Brewing Company, said. “The number of breweries has doubled in the last two years.”

It’s not the ease of starting a brewery which concerns Graham — who said a brewery can be started with a mere $30,000 capital — it’s the condition of competition. It seems the craft beer industry is in a tug-of-war between quantity and quality.

“A lot of the [small] brewers shouldn’t be brewing beer in [the cheap equipment],” Graham said.

Fortunately Central Waters was part of the first generation of breweries before the uptick started and is now one of the largest environmentally recognized breweries in Wisconsin.

Central Waters has remodeled its tap room and barrel aging warehouse, in addition to several “green” innovations. Currently Central Waters has two large solar arrays, which help provide hot water to heat the 12,500 square foot facility and photovoltaic arrays, which produce about 20 percent of their energy needs.

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Unfortunately these updates don’t come without a price tag and Central Waters still has a lot to do.

“The bigger you are, the better the equipment you can afford,” Graham said. “Our project list on installations of equipment and making things more efficient is backlogged a year right now,” Graham said.

But for Graham, it’s not about the profits; it’s about values and upholding their stance on sustainability.

As tribute to Central Waters’ commitment to renewable energy, for this week’s column I poured a glass of…

Central Waters Shine On Ale

Style

Irish Red Ale, 4.5 ABV percent

Aroma

Light cereal malt and earthiness with hint of lemon

Appearance

Pours deep burnt orange-bronze brown, settles amber with a soft white head that fades into a nice lasting lace

Texture

Medium-bodied, supple

Taste

Malty caramel, light tingling spice and a hint of cintristic hops make it smoothly mild

Consensus

Because there’s so much in this beer, Shine On speaks differently to each based on the flavor of what one’s tastebuds are most keen to pick up. What’s clear (beside the beer itself) is it’s a beer primed for summer drinking. Shine On is a fridge worthy and nicely named tribute to Central Waters’ solar thermal commitment.

My Rating: 3.5/5