How Breweries Are Being Good Neighbors Through Sustainability

Even small breweries can work at sustainability. That’s the point both Larry Horwitz and Jamil Zainasheff made to Brewer in recent chats.

“We want to help sustain the communities that we live, work and sell beer in and in our world that means not just being nice,” pointed out Horwitz, the Brewmaster for Columbus, Ohio’s Four String Brewing. “That also means being cognizant of our impact on the earth.

“I would like to think that in this industry we care about that, we don’t we don’t always have the resources to bring to the table that a huge brewery would. So while they might be on paper more sustainable, they may not give the street credit for it whereas we’re literally in a neighborhood. Part of it for us is about about a good face because we really care. We owe the next generation to leave the Earth at least in as good a shape as it is currently, if not in better shape. And that has to be across your life situation.”

At Heretic Brewing, Zainasheff and his staff takes sustainability very seriously. he notes that they have their water use down to the low 3-to-1 ratio.

“The big waster is the keg washer and we’re trying to figure out a solution to that,” he said. “Without the need to wash kegs, we might be down closer to 1.5-to-1. We buy wind power and we’re looking at solar. We recycle almost all that we have as waste and we’re looking to start a worm casting/composting set up for our restaurant.

“There is so much that can be easily done, it shocks me when people don’t try.”

Horwitz, who is a part of the BA’s sustainability subcommittee, thinks breweries are getting better and better at being greener as they mature.

“Small breweries are kind of beautifully inefficient animals in general,” he said. “We spend a little bit more on packaging and a little bit more on energy and we use a little more resources per barrel than a big brewery might. So I think we have an obligation to care about that stuff because we know we’re less efficient and that means if we’re not paying extra diligent care to how we’re using our limited resources then we could accidentally be much worse than a big brewery.”

He said he does see a lot of people doing what needs to be done though, like promoting recycling in the taproom.

“A lot of restaurants have trouble recycling because they’re such high volume. Most taprooms in my experience have a recycling program to the point where people don’t even think about it anymore, which I think is great,” he said. “You see blue recycling bins in the taproom and nobody says anything about it. They’re just there. And they get used.”

Other things Four Strings does to promote sustainability is packaging in cans, having a recycling dumpster that is twice the size of a landfill dumpster and they are looking for ways to repurpose, reuse and redistribute raw goods packaging.

“We have a farmer that picks up all of our grain. We’ve got a maltster that picks up all of our old bags and supersacks to reuse them and repurpose others,” he said. “We’re recovering heat out of water and we are always trying to be mindful that this is an important part of our business.”

Some of it is about economy he said.

“We’ve saved some money when we do some of these things, but some of it we do because we want to,” Horwitz noted. “In Ohio right now you have to pay for your recycling dumpster just like you pay for trash dumpster and some people are like, ‘Well why wouldn’t we just have two trash dumpsters because it’s a hassle to separate the trash?’ and I’m say, ‘Well because we want to be good neighbors, we want to be good members of the communities that we live and work in.’ And so we’re working on that.

“We haven’t gotten to the size yet where we can do some of the really big impacts thing. We can’t yet cover our roof for solar or dirt. There are some items that are still out there kind of in our dreamworld but we definitely have a focus on it. And we talk about it when we’re rolling out products or installing new equipment or figuring out what we’re going to do on the back end for our waste stream. I would like to spend more time and money on limited resources. But it’s one of our core values. At the very least every time we get together for a company wide meeting we’re talking about: ‘Oh yeah. We want to be good neighbors.’ “

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