The clearest answer to this question is to focus on draft beer, preferably served in re-useable mugs or pint glasses. That pint of beer at your local craft brewery leaves a smaller carbon footprint than cans or bottles. Re-useable growlers for take home are also a good choice.
When it comes to glass bottles and aluminum cans it gets a little more complicated. Aluminum cans are lighter, which makes for a smaller carbon footprint for transportation than glass. Aluminum is also more likely to be recycled. Recycling aluminum offers big energy savings (up to 95%) when it comes to producing the next batch of aluminum cans. On the downside, producing aluminum requires bauxite, which is often mined in environmentally destructive ways.
Glass recycling presents its own challenges. Glass is heavier to transport giving it a larger carbon footprint. It’s also less likely to be recycled despite the fact that it’s made mostly from innocuous materials such as silica.
Fortunately for bottled beer drinkers in Lakewood we have Lakewood’s Quail Street Recycling Center and MillerCoors! They pick up the sorted glass from the Center and take it to the Rocky Mountain Bottling Company (RMBC), where it’s recycled, one bottle into one whole new bottle. There is no net loss of material and the glass is manufactured at a lower temperature, resulting in energy savings. The recycled bottles are ultimately used in new bottles for brands such as Coors Light, Miller Lite and Blue Moon. For more information on the Quail Street Recycling Center go to: https://www.lakewood.org/Public-Works/Recycling/Quail-Street-Recycling-Center.
In summary, the most sustainable option is local craft beer. In the Alameda Corridor area the Old 121 Brewhouse offers growler re-fills as do most of Lakewood’s other craft breweries. Aluminum cans are ok as long as they’re actually recycled. In Lakewood, glass bottles dropped at the Quail Street Recycling Center are recycled responsibly by MillerCoors. Next time ask the friendly bartender at your local watering hole what they do with their bottles and cans!