The World Bottle in action.


By Jason Foster     Issue date: 04/22/2008

When there was no such thing as Earth Day and recycling had yet to become an urban routine, there existed a rather curious thing called the World Bottle. Introduced in 1963 by Heineken, the World Bottle was “the brick that held beer.”
As the story goes, Alfred Heineken had struck on this novel idea after a trip to the Dutch island of Curaçao revealed homelessness and littered beaches.
He asked architect John Habraken to design a bottle that would lead a productive second life once the contents were consumed. With the neck of one rectangular World Bottle nested in the punt at the bottom of another, layer upon layer interlocked and could be mortared into place to build strong walls.
Rather than becoming waste, the “WOBO” could become shelter. To my knowledge, this is the first bottle of beer that, having fulfilled its duty as a beverage, reached toward a greater benefaction. And this would not be the last time that  brewers and beer drinkers let conscience be their guide.
Laurelwood Brewing Co. brews Oregon’s first beers to be certified organic by Oregon Tilth. Their organic mainstays are aptly named, too. Enjoy a Free Range Red or a Treehugger Porter and know that you’re consuming beer made without pesticides and herbicides. It tastes better that way — go figure — and the grain used to make these beers has much less impact on soil and water quality than conventionally grown barley.
Laurelwood also participates in a program called Portland Composts. Much of their restaurant food waste is composted rather than hauled to a landfill.
Lucky Labrador Brewing Co. recently caused a stir at its Southeast Hawthorne location by becoming the first commercial brewery in Oregon to heat water for their brewing process with a new solar power array installed on the roof.
Whether you prefer Dog Day IPA or Black Lab Stout, your taste buds might be just a bit more “spot on” when the pint you’ve been poured was powered by the sun.
Portland’s Roots Organic Brewing Co. touts an all-organic lineup of great brews and is responsible for the first organic beer festival ever held on this continent. June 27 through June 29 sees the return of the North American Organic Brewers Festival to Overlook Park.
At the fest, you can sample a diverse showcase of beer that has been brewed with organic ingredients, quite possibly at wind- or solar-powered brewhouses or, in the case of British Columbia’s Crannóg Ales, on a farm striving to produce zero waste.
Roots will bring its beguiling but rewarding Chocolate Habanero Stout to the festival, spreading the good vibrations among the crowd alongside other great organic breweries from California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. The mantra, as always: When they say beer, we say organic.
You also can try several of the world’s most highly regarded imported organic beers at the festival. Sample from breweries such as Pinkus Mueller of Germany, the first 100 percent certified organic brewery in the world, Samuel Smith from Yorkshire, England, with all of its beers registered as vegan products, and Brasserie Cantillon of Anderlecht in Belgium, ardent in its support of organically grown grains.
To top it all off, this festival runs on biodiesel and uses biodegradable tasting cups.
A new kid on the block, but already a hit with a multitude of enthusiastic Portlanders, Hopworks Urban Brewery has taken things to another level.
Former head brewer for Laurelwood, Christian Ettinger has a vision for HUB that shares the same love for organic beer and adds more top-notch treatment of the environment by incorporating green building designs and materials in a recently opened public house on Southeast Powell Boulevard.
Hopworks not only is built green, but works green by converting its fryer oil to biodiesel, harnessing waste heat, effectively managing rainwater runoff, and supporting bicycle transportation.
So whatever became of the World Bottle? It was an experiment ahead of its time. About 100,000 bottles were produced of the two sizes needed for basic construction, and only two structures were built.
One, a shed, is on the estate of Alfred Heineken. The other structure is a wall at the Heineken museum in Amsterdam. Though the bottle itself is a relic, the message built into its shape lives on.
To celebrate Earth Day we remember what we have in common. We share a single planet upon which, always, we recognize that we are downstream from one another.
With a nod to Earth Day and the clever spirit of the World Bottle, I’m pleased to report that so many of today’s craft breweries continue to dream of ways to do right by people and planet while turning the profit that enables them to meet the demand for barrel upon barrel of delectable, Earth-friendly beer.
To that, I say “cheers!