How Saint Benjamin Brewing stays sustainable on a smaller budget

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Saint Benjamin Brewing can’t recapture its CO2 or use its dried compost as fuel for the brewery or do many other green initiatives that could cost lots of money up front right now, but it’s finding other ways to stay green and sustainable and raise awareness for the city of Philadelphia.

The former nanobrewery which opened in 2014 and has upgraded this year into a brewpub with hopes of reaching nearly 3,000 barrels this year debuted a new creation for the Philadelphia Water’s Green City, Clean Waters program with a dark English session ale, “Baxter’s Best.”

The beer was crafted using the city’s tap water and only stripping it of the chlorine and chloramine while not adding any new minerals. Saint Benjamin head brewer Andrew Foss created multiple mini-mashes to see what grains worked well with the city water, which is low in calcium.

The beer was made to honor the city’s water department, which is more than 200 years old and was engineered by Benjamin Franklin himself, co-founder Tim Patton said. Giving honor to a department that is overlooked, but very important to any brewery was the reason for the beer.

“I think it’s something in Philadelphia that is under recognized,” he said. “People don’t realize the high quality of the water here or the hard work the water department does.”

The Green City, Clean Waters program is efforting to keep 1.5 billion gallons of polluted waters out of Philly waterways this year. The beer is a tribute to the success of the city’s growing green infrastructure program.

Being conservation-minded, Patton and his team said they can’t do everything they would like in terms of being more green or sustainable. Most of that comes down to the size of the brewery, being in a packed city and not having the same cash flow that much larger and more sustainable breweries.

“I will admit as a brewery of our size, some of the efforts that maybe New Belgium, Sierra Nevada or even Alaskan Brewing have made is not possible for our small-scale brewery,” Patton said. “We don’t have five acres of land for composting or for drying and burning our compost for fuel. But we do make every effort that we can.”

Saint Benjamin works with chemical suppliers to make sure the things it uses for cleaning and sanitizing break down to simple base chemicals before it is re-entered into the water supply. The brewery also has compost from both the brewery and restaurant, including its spent grains and yeast. It also works with a recycling company that looks to not just recycle, but also find things that can be re-purposed or salvaged.

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“[We] truly appreciate how much they value efforts to protect our rivers,” said Brian Rademaekers, author of Philadelphia Water’s Watersheds Blog and a homebrewer, in a release. “This beer is a really cool way of celebrating the quality of our source water while highlighting the importance of protecting Philly’s rivers with investments that make our water cleaner and our neighborhoods greener, more vibrant places to live.”

The “Colonial-style” ESB is named after the Samuel S. Baxter Water Treatment Plant, one of three water treatment plants in Philadelphia and the one that serves as the source of all water in the brewery’s Kensington neighborhood, drawing water directly from the Delaware River. It it darker with a roaster grain bill. Patton said Foss used some dark malts, caramel, and oats for body. It’s something that may have been brewed 200 years ago while Franklin roamed the streets of Philly.

“In history, before water chemistry was understood you could only brew the types of beers that worked with your city’s water,” Patton said. “This is something that we would have been brewing or trying to get to maximize the quality of the beer.”

Although the beer was touted at a local gala as being brewed with Philly tap water, Patton said, of course, all of the brewery’s beers are made with the city’s tap water.

“I’m not sure where else we would be able to get the water,” he said with a laugh. “I think a lot of people thought it was a challenge to brew with Philly water and no, we do it everyday. I think a lot of marketing has gone into telling people that tap water isn’t as good as bottled water. Anything that can change people’s perception of what is in their tap is going to benefit their environment as a whole.”

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