So, I'm sitting here with a nice, refreshing glass of Hennepin, reading a brief article in the back of the July-August 2010 issue of Brew Your Own called "Beer From the Sun: A Solar Homebrewing Pioneer." It's about a homebrewer, and owner of Princeton Homebrew in New Jersey, named Joseph Blair.
Mr. Blair's recent endeavors are certainly notable, however. Good ol' Joe is brewing his beer using the sun instead of a propane burner or stove top (the typical alternatives). How is he doing this, you might ask? Well, it's all made possible with the help of a Fresnel lens - the type of lens one would encounter in a lighthouse or projection television.
The amount of light these bad boys collect can emit a focused beam capable of generating temperatures that can reach up to 800 °F (427 °C). Yeah, that's hot. To efficiently harness the amount of heat that is generated, Blair places his brewing kettle in an old refrigerated case (one with a glass front door). The beam is directed into the case, where there are mirrors transferring the heat around the kettle, effectively boiling the wort as usual.
Among the many benefits associated with this process are: the solar energy creates no pollution whatsoever, it does not generate any noise, and it can easily be used for other purposes (Blair also roasts grains and hops under the lens' beam, and this can clearly be used to "cook" much more - and can even be used for blow torch applications!). According to Blair, "This heating method is a free, clean, renewable and a wizard-like energy source...Using solar energy to brew will help slow down the mad rush to use up all the non-renewable fossil fuels which create carbon dioxide." So, next time you see an old projection television lens lying around (or find yourself in a lighthouse with no one looking...), recycle it and put it to good use! You may only be able to brew on clear, sunny days from then on, but hey, is that such a bad thing?
Peace and Love!