While attending the Sierra Nevada Burly Beers & Barleywines festival last month, I was able to check in with some of the fine folks at Stone Brewing Co. and, of course, their fans sampling some of their beer. One of these enthusiasts told me that Stone’s California site was really the “Disneyland of Beer.” What their fans may not be as familiar with is how much the company is into sustainability and has been from its beginning. In what has become really standard for the industry, as I am learning, the craft beer sector and sustainability are truly intertwined. See this great Q&A with Sierra Nevada, as an example.
Stone has some pretty impressive examples of this, including:
- In 2008, Stone Brewing Co. unveiled two major projects that reduced the brewery’s environmental impact: a 1,561-panel solar system and an on-site wastewater treatment facility.
- The $3.2 million rooftop solar system provides approximately 40 percent of the facility’s total electrical power. And with that amount of clean energy, it could offset more than 583,000 pounds of carbon emissions over its lifetime or the equivalent of planting 200 acres of trees.
- The $850,000 on-site wastewater treatment facility eliminated the need to truck 40,000 gallons of wastewater to San Diego each month. Plus, it will cut out 25,000 gallons of daily wastewater from the Escondido municipal wastewater treatment plant system.
- They also hope to secure permits to use filtered recycled water for landscape irrigation.
- Stone uses 33% less water than average brewers to make their beer.
Last February, I attended the GreenBiz Forum in Phoenix where many companies shared their progress and challenges on the never-ending sustainability journey. One of the featured interviews at the conference was with Pat Tiernan, Chief Operating Officer for Stone Brewing Co. Here are some additional things I learned:
- Stone is in the top 10 of craft breweries in U.S., and the company and has been growing at 15-30% rate for past several years.
- The company operates with an ethic of engaging in the community and creating an experience as well as a great product.
- They have a fully built sustainability program that is part of the Stone Brewing brand.
- Spent grain (the grain after it has been used for brewing) is sent out to local livestock producers to use for feed grain.
- Liquid waste is incorporated into municipal compost facilities that three different city governments use to increase their compost turn rate by a factor of three.
- The company doesn’t put anything in the landfill.
- Stone is actually the largest craft distributor in Southern California because the laws were such that no one would pick up their product. They will be able to drop their distribution footprint by about 40+% by adding the East Coast location in Richmond, VA.
- On packaging, the company completely turned the supply chain upside-down by sourcing glass with specs that reduce ounces of glass out of each bottle.
Some interesting perspectives from Pat Tiernan:
- Sustainability is a tool set that you learn as you go, and if you don’t do some of these things, you really hurt yourself as a business.
- In deciding on an East Coast location, watersheds were a key consideration. Stone wanted to find a plentiful source and where wastewater treatment capacity was good.
- Stone worked with the wastewater authority in Richmond to establish a mutually beneficial arrangement where Stone’s wastewater (which contains substances that are beneficial for helping to break down other waste) will be available to the city, and Stone was able to get the surcharge that is usually charged for dealing with wastewater removed for themselves and all the other brewers in the area.
Taking Sustainability Forward
As with many other craft breweries I’ve learned about, adaptive re-use – or reviving and transforming old buildings for a new purpose, is also a key part of how Stone will move forward in its East Coast location.
Some interesting details on Stone’s Richmond site:
- Stone plans to invest $74 million to construct a production brewery, packaging hall, destination restaurant, retail store and administrative offices.
- Stone is also planning to create a destination restaurant spanning four acres and highlighting locally grown organic food, complementing the harmonious nature and seasonality of the location’s surroundings.
- The restaurant will feature beautifully landscaped gardens where visitors will be able to enjoy craft beer, dine and relax in an inviting atmosphere.
Stone is also taking its sustainable “beer as experience” mentality back to the old country, becoming one of the first American craft breweries to open up shop in Germany. In Stone’s example, once again we see that successful craft breweries have moved past sustainability as some kind of “add-on” and view it as a central part of how they do business.
Pat Tiernan summed it up well at GreenBiz saying, “I’ve always thought sustainability was just another tool set/toolkit to be used in business.” Indeed it is!
Next week, I will take a look at a smaller player in the sector, but one that is also doing many impressive things on sustainability with an interview featuring Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence, KS.
Thanks to Sara H Harper, Director of Sustainability Solutions at K•Coe Isom for contributing this feature.