Building a better beer barrel

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When a new kind of beer keg came along in 2014, the brewer promised better tasting product with less waste. For Royal Caribbean, that was a win-win.  The main attraction was how the new keg fit perfectly with the cruiseline’s environmental mission, its emphasis on responsible stewardship.

Developed by Heineken Global Duty Free in concert with Royal Caribbean International and released under the name BrewLock, the new keg is 100 percent recyclable.

It’s made of PET, the most widely recycled plastic in the world, according to The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), the manufacturer’s trade group in North America.

Any packaging made from the plastic – identified by the numeral “1” inside the triangular universal recycling symbol stamped on the bottom of the bottle or package – is 100 percent recyclable and can be reused to make new bottles, fiberfill for winter coats, certain auto parts and a wide range of other items.

The BrewLock keg holds beer in a collapsible plastic sac inside a hard-shell plastic container. Pressurized air inside the shell squeezes the sac, forces the beer into a hose and on to the tap, without air or gases ever touching the beer.

This system delivers beer in “brewery quality” condition, according to Heineken, and uses nearly all the product, unlike the wasted suds left behind in traditional metal kegs.

“From our side, any kind of recyclable materials that can be compacted and stored easily and then recycled versus shipping stuff around the world, from a carbon reduction concept is a good idea,” says Rich Pruitt, RCL vice president of safety and environmental stewardship.

“Plus, if we don’t have these big (metal) kegs on board that are empty and we’re hanging onto them for awhile, it allows us more storage space for other things.”

Besides freeing up precious space on a cruise ship by off-loading the compacted plastic kegs in ports with appropriate recycling facilities, the BrewLock further reduces RCL’s carbon footprint in another way.

“People talk about, ‘Oh it’s great to return and reuse those (standard) kegs,’ but there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Pruitt explains. “Everyone would think that using (the BrewLock keg) and then never using it again is bad. But depending on the total net impact, sometimes that’s the best thing to do.”

Roseann Grippo, Royal Caribbean International’s director of beverage operations, says the new system is easy to operate, relieves the administrative burden of returning empty kegs and delivers on its promise of the freshest tasting beer.

“We’ve had fantastic feedback from all our staff on the benefits of BrewLock,” Grippo says. “The flow from the tap is smooth and the foam produced adds to the flavor, giving us a consistent quality for our guests to enjoy.”