Q: Do you see the craft brewing industry as having a special connection to sustainability?
Magerl: In many instances, yes. There are key people and pioneers that have sustainability at their core, but it isn’t de facto within the entire industry.
As we evolve in agriculture, shouldn’t we all have sustainability as a crucial aspect of what we are doing? Ideally, long-range vision is associated with the industry.
Q: Adaptive re-use of buildings and materials seems to be common in this industry. Have you engaged in these activities?
Magerl: Re-imagining spaces and taking elements of what currently exists there and modifying and adapting it is a challenge. It is a lot easier to go to an open field and start fresh rather than adapting and restoring an old site.
This building (that houses the restaurant and brewery) has had many uses — it was literally an open barn. A trolley depot came straight through this building at one time. Union Pacific ran it as a bus station for some 40 years and then it was neglected. Even a large part of the roof was not in usable condition.
We took that wood, molded it, planed it and turned it into the framing of the front of the building. We are re-using Cyprus wood that had been part of large vinegar vats as part of the building. That wood has a lot of durability and character – there is a story behind it. Those stories convey meaning to a customer and help build that social/emotional connection.
Q: Are there other things you are doing on the environmental side of sustainability?
Magerl: Yes, there are a number of things, including:
- We re-claim waste heat and use it to pre-heat our hot water. We have been doing this for 20 years;
- Food and paper waste from our kitchen is shredded and composted;
- Spent grain gets utilized as feed for local dairy farmers that we have developed a steady relationship with; and
- We purchase renewable energy credits from hydropower that is generated on the Kansas River just north of us.
Q: It seems that the craft brewing industry is far more in sync with sustainability as a core way to operate a business than many other legacy food companies. Why is that?
Magerl: There seems to be a divergence with products that enable a social experience, allowing people to share stories and a bond. We don’t see that same emotional connection to bread, for example.
The alcohol component of the craft brewing industry does have a level of conviviality and social sharing that other products don’t seem to have access to. In beer and wine, you can taste the “craftsman” compared to other products that don’t often lend themselves to that with a wide variety of different tastes within a similar product line.
Q: Tell me about the social side of sustainability. What are you doing for your employees and the community?
Magerl: Different businesses have different mandates placed on them. We want to be ahead of what’s required. So, we have had health insurance for our dishwashers well before it was required. Our wait staff have access to matching retirement funds. Our cooks have paid vacations. For the most part, our actions create added value beyond the paycheck for employees.
On the community side, a huge part of who we are is being connected to the community. We host approximately five major fundraising events for the community groups each year and host lesser ones each month. We are always hosting and sponsoring events at our brewery. Examples include farmers markets, food groups and charitable organizations.
One of the fun events we do every year is the Brew to Brew Run, which is a 41 mile run that starts at Boulevard Brewing Co. and ends here. The benefits go to help fight cystic fibrosis.