Last week, I briefly discussed one of the co-products of malt distilleries. We learned—just enough to tuck into your back pocket for later musings—about draff. This week, we dive back into the co-product pot to learn a bit about two others. The first is Pot ale—which to me always sounds delicious. It’s a residue from the inside of the stills and is also referred to as burnt ale (that part does not sound delicious). These dregs contain the following:
– Yeast residue
– Soluble protein
– Other minerals
In the past, the pot ale was considered waste, and spread over farmlands or dumped into neighboring rivers and piped into the sea. Eventually, an ever vigilant environmental protection agency got wind of the effluent and laid down the law. Lots of them.
One method of pot ale disposal is the manufacturing of pot ale syrup through evaporation. The result is a sweet, thick, malty nectar, not unlike molasses, and a constant request among the bovine and porcine diners. Sadly, sheep get the shaft, as the high levels of copper in the syrup tended to have a negative effect on their desire to continue living.
Although used as a liquid feed and fertilizer, pot ale syrup is also often combined with draff, dried, and sold as barley dark grains (cubes or pellets). I’m seeing it as something like barnyard granola, if that helps.
Another co-product from the distillery, one that has no profit-making potential, is called spent lees. It’s the washing up water leftover from making each magical batch of spirit. You’d think with all that alcohol swirling about, cleaning would be self-actuating. Alas, there’s countless minutes spent scrubbing vessels and pipes, all in an effort to make sure your bottle of whisky arrives in your hands sludge free. That’s service and dedication.
This waste water’s next stop is at a bioplant—a treatment facility that will effectively alter levels of BOD (biochemical oxygen demand), COD (chemical oxygen demand) and copper, opening up safe options for disposal.
Of course, we know now that copper toxicity is an issue to our seafood and freshwater fish, and farmers aren’t too pleased if the copper levels in the soil become poisonous. It’s challenging to sell goods that have been stamped with a giant warning sign by the EPA.
If you’ve the time and inclination to dive further into the tongue-twisting jargon, click here to read about Chivas Brother’s Glenallachi Distillery and their fancy, new “in-home” treatment facility. Either you’ll be thoroughly enlightened on the subject, or you’ll need to lie down and take a couple of asprin.
But again, from a broad perspective, we’re able to see a symbiotic relationship between distillery and land. This one, however, is a little trickier to precisely define. On the one hand, the distillery benefits by ridding themselves of two substances considered both co-product and waste. The co-product has commercial value—both distillery and farmers benefit. The treatment of waste necessitates spending money to reach Environmental Quality Standards and meet the criteria for disposal under current legislation—the distillery is out of pocket, but the land, water and salmon are breathing easier.
This is a good thing, because we all like our salmon pink—not blue from holding their breath while we sort out solutions to the problems we’ve created.