Riff Raff Brewing Co: Colorado’s First Craft Brewery to Use Geothermal Spring Water But How Does It Work?

Riff Raff Brewing: Colorado’s First Craft Brewery to Use Geothermal Spring Water

But How Does It Work?

Riff Raff Brewing Company is nestled in downtown Pagosa Springs, Colorado: a quaint
little mountain town that boasts lots of wilderness land, stellar skiing and snowboarding,
and holds the Guinness World Record for the World’s Deepest Geothermal Hot Spring,
measured at 1002’ deep.

The city of Pagosa Springs has taken advantage of this wonderful resource via two
production wells that provide heated geothermal water to some of the buildings in the
downtown area (if they happen to be along the geothermal loop). This means that
businesses along Main Street benefit by the heat in their buildings being supplied by thehot spring water itself. Even better, the water is not wasted, it is delivered in a supply-
return closed loop; providing heat before being returned to the San Juan River, uncontaminated.

Riff Raff tapped into the geothermal line in the alley behind our building in the Fall of
2013. The water supplied comes in between 129-136 degrees Fahrenheit. We started
with just a few applications, but in time added on the entire building’s heat (including the
brewhouse), heating the snowmelt system in the back parking lot, and heating all the
domestic hot water. It also holds the important job of keeping fermenting beer at the
proper temperatures during Winter. Every Fall, the geothermal water is used to help us
heat all the brewhouse water (“liquor” in the brewing industry), heat the kitchen in the
Winter, and heat the rest of the building, including the upstairs apartments, via floor
baseboard heating systems.

To give you an idea about how much this helps us be environmentally-friendly, our tap
water comes out at about 37 degrees in the Winter. When the water has been heated
via the exchanger from the geothermal water, it preheats our water to 137 degrees (all
without burning dinosaurs or polluting!). For the brewing process, we boil a LOT of
water. Since boiling point at our elevation is about 200 degrees, having the water
preheated to 137 is a huge advantage, and incredibly energy-saving.

So what does all of this mean, exactly? All of us here at Riff Raff feel strongly about
taking care of our environment, and using our resources in a sustainable way. The
World’s deepest geothermal hot spring that we are blessed with here in our little town
helps us be the most conscious, creative, sustainable, and efficient brewery that we can
be! We are challenged to not only think outside the box, but to let the Earth be a part of
our brewing process. We are providing Earth Powered Beer in the best way!

“For The Nerds” Section

So there’s a lot more scientific stuff to this whole geothermal heating system thing!
Here’s the details for those ‘scientifically-inclined’:

The closed supply-return loop is both a 2” source and a 2” return line. The geothermal water pumped from the spring comes in between 129-136 degrees Fahrenheit. The surface temperature of the Mother Spring itself is around 160 degrees. The loop has thermometers installed on both ends, to measure the temperature drop after the geothermal heat exchange occurs on the other side of the wall in the exchange manifold. The temperature drop only averages 5 to 10 degrees, even during the coldest
days in Winter.

There are four heat exchangers that the water is fed through. The exchangers are built
for swimming pools, and collectively exchange up to 2.4 million BTUs of energy. The
geothermal water passes cold water pumped up each side of the heat exchanger, which
is then passed on to the Riff Raff Brewing side. The water never actually touches or
mixes together, but it allows the transfer of heat energy from the town to our brewery,
with only a few degrees of temperature loss.

The town’s own heat exchangers take the mineral-rich geothermal water, use it to heat
city water, which then is pumped into the town network. So the actual mineral water isn’t
being pumped throughout all of downtown, but all the hot water that is being pumped
through the network has been heated with the geothermal water. The town (and us here
at Riff Raff!) save a ton of energy by having the natural spring water heat our tap water.

Cheers to Earth Powered Beer!


READ MORE about how Riff Raff keeps the earth hoppy!