SUDS WITH A SOCIAL CONSCIENCE
By Carol Milano
Next time you savor a beer, you might be saving the forest,
protecting an endangered lighthouse, or encouraging alternative energy
With beers tasting just as good as their competitors', a pioneering
trio of small American breweries is showing how well suds mix with social
and environmental concerns.
Last May, Summit Brewing Company was approached by
the Forest Stewardship Council about using certified wood at its brewery.
The St. Paul firm decided that supporting sustainable forestry would
be a smart business investment for them. "Buying certified pallets
that come from well-managed and harvested forests lets us reassure
our customers that we purchase things not taken from clear-cut forests.
We're upholding our company values while encouraging forest management
practices that protect clean water resources -- an essential ingredient
in quality beer," says Christopher Seitz, Operations Manager.
Switching to certified pallets was an easy decision, because
they're not paying a premium for the wood, although Seitz had originally
expected to. Fortunately, Summit's supplier also joined the Forest Stewardship
Council and began to manufacture certified pallets. "We actually
get fan mail about it, even from non- beer drinkers," Seitz marvels.
"It didn't cost us a thing -- the best kind of advertising."
Summit, established in 1986, makes eight types of craft beers.
The small brewery's staff has always believed that it has relationships
not only with its customers and wholesalers, but with the environment,
as well. For example, "we take our coffee-brewing as seriously
as our beer-brewing," Seitz jokes. His company gets organic,
fair-traded beans for its employees from Peace Coffee, a Minneapolis
company active in rainforest preservation.
Light Ale and Lighthouses
The American Lighthouse Foundation, a small non-profit group in Maine,
is dedicated to the preservation of lighthouses. Its co-founder, Tim
Harrison, was thrilled when Fred Forsley, president of Shipyard Brewing
Company in Portland, contacted him to propose developing a beer that
could help fund his organization's efforts. Shipyard Light Ale, created
by Master Brewer Alan Pugsley, is crisp, dry, golden ale. Six different
images of lighthouses from Maine to Massachusetts adorn its bottles.
Part of its sales goes to the foundation.
"Lighthouses are symbols of our maritime past," says Forsley.
"Most traditional shipyards, docks, and fish processing plants
have disappeared without a trace. Lighthouses endure as a reminder
of the seafaring tradition of New England." The new beer was
introduced in mid-2001, with a celebration cruise touring Casco Bay.
Shipyard Brewing Company, founded in 1994, currently produces 10 different
varieties of English style and seasonal ales.
Brewin' In The Wind
By unanimous employee vote in 1999, New Belgium Brewing
Company, in Fort Collins, Colorado became America's first totally
wind-powered brewery. Today, it's the largest brewery in the world
to meet 100% of its energy needs through wind use. Nationally-recognized
for its environmental efficiency, the company began on-site water
treatment last May, to generate re-usable by-products like methane
and nutrient-rich sludge while cleaning the water they used in the
brewing process. The methane then fuels a co-generation plant, and
the sludge helps build soil. The treatment makes their water clean
enough to discharge back into the ground or the Poudre River.
Steam condensers on their kettles allow hot water to be re-used in
the brewing process. Sun tubes provide daytime lighting. Their new
200 brewer-barrel Stienecker Brewhouse will be America's most technologically
advanced, and 40% more energy efficient than its predecessor. The
company recycles everything: damaged cardboard cartons, keg caps,
amber glass, office materials, and even plastic shrink-wrap.
Founded in 1991, New Belgium makes 15 handcrafted world-class beers
in the Belgian tradition, many of them award winners. The company is
socially responsible, too -- and very social: their CEO, Kim Jordan,
is also known as "Chief of Fun." The brewery, 34% employee-owned,
gives $1 per barrel to charity, balancing donations between cultural,
social, environmental, and drug/alcohol awareness programs. After one
year of employment, each worker receives a Fat Tire Cruiser bicycle,
to encourage biking to work because it's good for the environment. The
fifth anniversary gift is a trip to Belgium, for immersion in beer culture.
Does their altruism make business sense? "Wind
power does cost more, but we' re glad to do it. We would rather save
the environment than save money," says Alex Leedy, a New Belgium
If more breweries follow the examples of these trailblazers,
you'll soon be able to choose your cause while you order your beer!
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