“Vapori di birra”, where hops meet geothermal energy for sustainable production

Published on Friday, 22 February 2019

“We always aim to make excellent products, but what’s really important to us is to share this land. Our product has the history of geothermal energy behind it, present in Tuscany for over two hundred years.”

– Edo Volpi – Founder of Vapori di Birra

Located in the heart of the Tuscan geothermal area, “Vapori di birra” is the first Italian brewery to use the heat from the earth for its production, continuing the centuries-long history that links Tuscany to geothermal energy.

The Taste of Sustainability

Sasso Pisano is known for its boraciferous fumaroles, high-pressure and high-temperature vapor emissions from the ground.

Not far from the brewery, you can find Enel Green Power’s historical Sasso 2 geothermal plant, remodeled in 2009 and equipped with 20 MW of installed power. 

Through a system of carefully studied ducts that are shared with district heating, the vapor from the plant is routed toward the brewery, which uses it for all the beer production phases that require heat.

The vapor gets to the brewery at about 230° and, with a heat exchanger, is turned into water heated to 136° and inserted in a closed circuit. 

“We use geothermal energy for the entire production phase. This ensures the total absence of C02 emissions into the air and therefore a very low environmental impact.”

– Edo Volpi – Founder of Vapori di Birra

The first step in beer production involves mashing ground malts and water heated to 78°. Then, the product is first filtered, and then put back into the press, where geothermal heat brings the water to a boil.

Then there is the fermenter, where the beer is born, and then washes, where water heated with geothermal energy is also used. Geothermal vapor is never in direct contact with the beer, so its organoleptic, nutritional and flavor properties remain unchanged.

At the end of the process, the brewery “returns” the used-up vapor to EGP, who takes care of cooling it further and returning it to the subsoil, in order to guarantee the source’s sustainability over time.

Thanks to the earth’s heat, “Vapori di birra” is able to produce 8 different kinds of beer, all with names somehow linked to geothermal energy: from a Weiss called Sulfurea to the red beer Magma, the special honey beer Thera, and a local chili pepper beer, Fiamma.

A Sustainable Beer

Using geothermal vapor to produce beer, like the Sasso Pisano brewery does, is an economic advantage, in addition to being good for the environment. The brewery saw a 25% cost reduction compared to when it used traditional energy. It’s also beneficial to the local economy in general, to increase a new kind of sustainable tourism.

It’s an important gift, which is reinvested directly into the business to improve production processes, choose the best raw materials and creating better beers, which then attract new customers. With “Vapori di birra”, we are looking at a virtuous cycle, both environmental and economic, triggered by a renewable source like geothermal energy. 

“So many people who find out about geothermal energy are interested in our business. We have a lot of customers that choose us because they have a heightened environmental awareness, which shows us how sustainability is spreading. Of course, the beer has to be good!”

– Edo Volpi – Founder of Vapori di Birra

But “Vapori di Birra” is not alone. The brewery is part of the association “Agricultural Supervisory of the Renewable Energy Food Community in Tuscany”, formed by entrepreneurs that have sustainability at heart and that actively collaborate with Slow Food Tuscany, Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity and CoSviG.

In Tuscany, geothermal energy isn’t just electric energy and heat. It’s also culture and sustainable tourism, thanks to museums, hiking trails and food tours that bring thousands of visitors to the area each year. 

These tourists, between one activity and another, can enjoy a refreshing break with a quality, eco-friendly beer, thanks to Edo Volpi!