The sun has got a head on! How they brewed 30m pints under the Yorkshire skies

ON THE face of it, this humble pint of John Smith's appears to be nothing out of the ordinary - but behind its frothy top and golden hue, it tells a story of traditional business marking out a new legacy of sustainability.

A worker checks the solar panels on the roof of Heineken's Tadcaster Brewery. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

For this is the 30 millionth pint of beer to be “brewed by the sun” in Yorkshire, at Heineken’s solar powered brewery in Tadcaster – the biggest in the UK

In 2014, the company invested £1m in 4,000 solar panels that were placed on the rooftops of the brewery and bottling plant, which has been in the North Yorkshire town since 1178.

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It is part of a range of measures worldwide by the company to reduce its CO2 emissions by 40 per cent by 2020.

If laid side-by-side, the Tadcaster solar panels would cover the same area as five Olympic-sized swimming pools, and generate 797,999 KwH of energy each year – enough energy for 171 households for a year.

Since they were plugged into the site’s energy supply, the amount of electricity generated by the panels has been enough to produce 30 million pints. Brewery manager David Ginley said the investment marks part of its wider commitment to sustainability - and its commitment to brewing in the town.

The site uses 28.5 million KwH of energy a year and of this, 2.8 per cent is from solar energy and 5.8 per cent is from biogas – so almost 10 per cent of the site’s energy comes from renewables.

It’s not only good for the environment, but saves the company £150,000 a year.

And no jokes please about the Yorkshire weather - the panels produce energy even on cloudy days.

“Today has been quite cloudy but we’ll still be generating electricity as if it was a better day,” Mr Ginley said. “Even in winter when it is raining we’re still generating as if it’s a brighter day.”

This year will see further investment in sustainability - with more than £3m planned to be spent in technology to reduce water consumption, and to reuse the heat produced in the brewing process. It already uses anaerobic digestion to generate biomas energy on site, and treats all surplus water used in the brewing process.

As the popularity of microbreweries and craft beers continues to rise, the company hopes that by shouting about its sustainable methods, it will appeal to a younger generation of consumers who care about where their beer comes from, and how it was made.

Next week John Smith’s will be launching a social media campaign to drive home the message about how the beer is “brewed by the sun”.

Mr Ginley said: “Younger people are much more aware of the environment and people want to understand what bigger companies are doing to reduce their energy impact. Being sustainable is one of our responsibilities but it’s also a chance to innovate.

“We have been brewing here since 1778. We have heritage here and a long-standing commitment to the town. This shows how brewing is moving with the times. We’re proud to produce in Tadcaster and want people to know what we are doing to meet the sustainability challenge.”

Nigel Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty helped the brewery celebrate the 30 millionth pint.

Mr Adams, who is vice chairman of the All Party parliamentary Beer Group, said: “It gives me great pride that Tadcaster is home to the UK’s largest solar powered brewery and to know that home favourites like John Smith’s are being brewed by the Yorkshire sun and enjoyed across the UK.”


• It cost £1m to fit the solar panels at the brewery in Tadcaster - but they are already showing their environmental worth.

• Savings from this and other sustainability measures, such as biogas, amount to £150,000 a year.

• The 4,000 panels make Tadcaster the UK’s largest solar powered brewery.

• 30 million pints have been brewed by solar power since they were installed in 2014.

• The solar panels generate 797,999 KwH of energy each year – enough energy for 171 households for a year.

• The site produces 3.8m hectolitres of beer a year – equivalent to 669 million pints.