By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Throughout the brewing process, we as homebrewers can adjust our methods to reduce the amount of impact we have on the environment. There are several options available, from simple changes that are affordable to more time-consuming and costly investments in an eco-friendly brew system. Unfortunately, homebrewing will always generate some waste. But if we minimize our impact, we can preserve the brewing hobby for future generations.
Getting Started on Sustainability
Depending on your particular brewing system, you will have varying levels of waste from various sources, including spent grains, spent hops, yeast sludge and even cooling water runoff. If you use a wort chiller, you can utilize the hot water runoff for cleaning purposes. You could even collect the water runoff and start your next batch of brew. In the past, we have discussed reusing yeast, but you can also use the yeast in your garden or compost pile. If you are feeling adventurous, the spent yeast is what the Australians use to make Vegemite, so you might experiment with this unique spread. Unfortunately, spent hops can’t be reused or put into anything other than the compost pile. The spent grain, however, can be saved and used in a variety of different ways. We have all heard of spent grain dog biscuits, but you can make all manner of baked goods. There are plenty of recipes on the Internet. But most baked goods call for flour and a liquid of some kind. That being said, it’s easy to add your wet spent grain and omit a portion of the flour and liquid. If you decide to play around with a recipe, you should probably use a favorite cookie or cake recipe that you’ve made plenty of times, that way you know if you have the right mixture and ratios. Of course, the spent grain can go into compost piles, but where are the fun and cookies in that?
Let’s say you’re an accomplished homebrewer and waste as little possible. There still may be a few little changes that you can make to ensure the brewing process is even greener. Most of the alterations that can be made are mentioned above. The most significant waste is the water runoff that occurs while chilling the wort. The least expensive way to save on your water waste and costs is to hook up a rain barrel to your home’s gutter system. The easiest way to access the water is by hooking up a sump pump to your wort chiller. You can put the outgoing water from the wort chiller back into the top of the rain barrel. As long as the barrel is more than half full, you’ll be able to chill up to 10 gallons of wort without warming the liquid in the rain barrel too much. You can also use the water for cleaning, just not for brewing. You may even want to add a second rain barrel to collect the runoff, allowing you to use every drop in your first rain barrel and not risk heating your chilling water.
No matter how sustainable you want to make your brew system, some small changes can make the entire brewing process more efficient. Even if the goal isn’t to save the planet, sometimes saving our bank accounts has the happy side effect of helping the environment.
CSC IPA [AG]
CSC IPA [Extract]
By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
For the Oregon Beer Growler
How much water does it take to make your favorite beer? What about energy and other natural resources? This is probably not something you normally consider when you drink a pint, but thankfully for the environment, many of our local breweries are trying to lessen their impact with the help of Energy Trust of Oregon.
At Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, modifications to their refrigeration systems helped reduce their kilowatt hours per barrel by 6.9 percent, according to Julia Person, sustainability manager. The company’s participation in Energy Trust’s Strategic Energy Management initiative also provided valuable tools for engaging employees and identifying low- to no-cost energy-saving opportunities.
Person points out already-implemented or ongoing projects at the production facility on North Russell Street. In the brewhouse, they are currently testing various LED bulbs in the existing overhead fixtures to find the desired color and brightness. The new, more efficient bulbs will contribute to a further drop in kilowatt hours per barrel. Widmer has already replaced all inefficient fluorescent lamps with T5 lighting and has installed occupancy and daylight sensors throughout the facility, so lights automatically turn off when not needed.
Person describes another Energy Trust project, which involved installing smart thermostats in the office space. Heating and cooling systems can now be controlled remotely, thus saving energy, and money, by raising or lowering ambient temperature when no one is present. “The HVAC project, which includes these smart thermostats as well as other measures, such as retro-commissioning of our entire system, has resulted in Widmer receiving a $56,000 rebate check for completing this project,” Person says.
Back in the brewhouse, Person explains how a reduction in boil times by only five minutes equals significant natural gas savings when you consider that the 250-barrel brewery brews nine times per day and typically operates 24 hours, six days per week. “For water efficiency, we have worked on reusing rinse water at our bottle filler and preventing beer loss,” says Person. In 2013, the Portland brewery’s water usage ratio was an industry-leading 4.07 gallons per gallon of beer. In 2014, they were able to reduce that number even further to 3.5 gallons per gallon of beer.
One challenge familiar to all breweries is how to dispose of the high-quality organic wastewater that is a byproduct of the brewing process. An Oregon BEST Commercialization Grant helped Widmer collaborate with researchers from the Oregon State University researcher-led startup Waste2Watergy. Now working under a National Science Foundation grant, the company is already on the second phase of testing an innovative microbial fuel cell technology that is “capable of generating electricity directly from wastewater, while simultaneously accomplishing highly efficient wastewater treatment,” explains Person.
Widmer Brothers Brewing already boasts that 99.5 percent of their waste is diverted from landfills, including truckloads of spent grains, yeast and hops, as a result of recycling efforts. The company has recently identified a new partner that can recycle more plastics including grain bags, polyester strapping for packaging, keg caps and Mylar hop packaging.
After making the beer, it still has to be packaged for distribution. Craft Brew Alliance’s Redhook Brewery in Woodinville, Wash. switched to a dry-running System Plast bottling conveyor in 2014, which yielded savings in energy, maintenance and materials, along with 111,000 gallons of water. Redhook was subsequently named a 2014 Safer Chemistry Champion by Washington’s Department of Ecology for the project. Person says they are already exploring its application at the Portland facility.
If you like to consume your beer as close to the source as possible, you’ll be happy to know that the Widmer Brothers Pub was recently recertified as a three-star Green Restaurant. Certification is based on the accumulation of points across seven environmental categories: water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable furnishings and building materials, sustainable food, energy, disposables, and chemical and pollution reduction. One hundred percent of the pub’s electricity is sourced from renewable wind power through Pacific Power’s Blue Sky program.
Having met their 2014 objectives of achieving 5 percent savings across all utilities, reducing the impact of materials, increasing packaging efficiency, and achieving third-party certification, Person says the company is now focused on “tracking our greenhouse gas emissions’ intensity and continuing to pursue innovative projects such as capturing renewable energy from biogas.”
Widmer Brothers Brewing is not the only company that is committed to minimizing their environmental impact across their breweries and brewpubs. Energy Trust of Oregon has also partnered with Deschutes Brewery in Bend and Portland, Gilgamesh Brewing in Salem, Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene and Worthy Brewing in Bend, helping each of these businesses implement energy-saving improvements that have resulted in financial gains from both energy cost savings and Energy Trust cash incentives.
It’s amazing when you think about the positive impact that a few simple conservation actions can make on the environment. No matter how big or small the operation, Oregon breweries are finding ways to produce your favorite brew more sustainably while still providing the same quantity and quality of beer that we’ve come to expect and love.
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Christian Ettinger, owner of Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB), has had sustainability on his mind long before the brewery's 2008 opening. While brewing at Laurelwood, he started experimenting with making organic beers but ultimately knew he wanted to go beyond what was possible there. Hopworks was the realization of his dream and an extension of his personal desires. Always at the forefront of Christian's mind is how to make the smallest impact on the environment as possible, something that's reflected in every aspect of the brewery.
The decor of both their original location and BikeBar, which opened in 2011 on the North Williams "bike-highway," is a visual representation of his interest in alternative transportation methods. The bicycle parts that adorn the spaces, however, only speak to part of the meaning behind the shortened version of their name, HUB. The other part of the meaning is less obvious but no less important. A "hub" is literally the middle and Christian feels that "every community needs a gathering place," be that a park, a library or one of the two HUB locations. He admits, "You don't need to drink beer, but you need to eat," which is why he has created spaces that are not just taprooms, but places for people to gather. The businesses offer a combination of bar and restaurant seating, as well as play areas for children. The Tot Tuesdays program, particularly popular in the winter when outdoor activities can be more challenging, is all about providing a space for parents to bring their children for crafts and story time.
Christian isn't content to simply maintain what he started; he's always in search of ways to improve. At the beginning of 2015, HUB announced a number of new projects and programs that will further expand the scope of its sustainability, environmental stewardship and contributions to the community. One of the biggest, literally, is a custom-designed Cleaning-In-Place (CIP) system.
Making beer uses a lot of water. For example, 90 percent goes to the cleaning of equipment between batches. It's not uncommon to use up to 10 gallons of water to make one gallon of beer. There's no way to change the amount that stays in the beer, but it's the water that would typically go down the drain that HUB is focusing on reducing with its CIP system. After looking at multiple options, from basic do-it-yourself projects to expensive systems used by larger breweries, the brewery opted to build a system that was a happy medium between the two. The system will not only reduce water use; it will also allow HUB to reuse a percentage of detergents and cleaning agents. How much of a reduction is yet to be seen, but HUB is hoping to cut both by half.
Another project, Community Tap, is broadening the way HUB thinks about sustainability by supporting local nonprofit organizations. In the past, the business has contributed to many organizations in a reactionary way. What makes this different is that the brewery has created a structured program of giving that is intentional and focused. The giving goes beyond simply monetary donations and extends to seeking volunteer opportunities for employees with each organization.
For 2015, HUB has identified 14 charities, 12 that will benefit from HUB on Southeast Powell Boulevard and two that will benefit from BikeBar, that fall under three broad themes: sustainability, community and bicycles. Each of the charities has been assigned to a calendar month, aligning, when possible, with key events and awareness-raising times for the organizations. KBOO community radio, for example, is an organization HUB has been involved with for years as an underwriter for three shows that reflect HUB values. Their annual spring drive occurs in May and during that month 1 percent of pint sales at HUB on Southeast Powell Boulevard will be donated to KBOO. Christian anticipates that each of the 12 charities assigned to the flagship HUB location will receive $900-$1,000 and the two at BikeBar will receive $400.
A third project is attaining B Corporation certification, a third-party verification of the sustainability of a company, "what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk," according to the Certified B Corporations website. Some of the best companies in the world are chasing the certification that is an extensive and holistic look at business practices. The process of certification involves the accumulation of points in areas like corporate accountability, environmental practices, community practices and worker ownership.
Part of HUB's path to certification has included Christian becoming a board member for Salmon-Safe. It was not something he had thought about before, yet it is another way of addressing the issue of water conservation. In addition, HUB is working with Willamette Riverkeeper and Oregon Wild's Oregon Brewshed Alliance. Christian sees the success of HUB not just in terms of finances, but also in terms of outwardly-facing programs with social and environmental impacts. It's an area that he's been able to devote more energy to now that the brewery’s biggest concern is no longer "keeping the lights on."
You can support HUB's efforts by drinking beer at their two locations and 1 percent of the sales will be contributed to the organization of the month. Want to do a bit more? You can also help keep the four-pack PakTech handle recycling process going. The Eugene-made product that keeps four packs together can be returned to either HUB location in exchange for 25 cents toward your next pint. That might not sound like much, but accumulate 19 of them and you've gotten yourself a free pint of beer, all by just collecting the handles that make their way into your house every time you buy a four-pack for home or an outdoor adventure.
Hopworks Urban Brewery
[a] 2944 SE Powell Blvd.
[a] 3947 N. Williams Ave.
By Branden Andersen
For the Oregon Beer Growler
While breweries are opening left and right, this one has been hanging in wait for the past year.
And finally, it’s time.
Bridge 99 Brewery, which had its “grand soft opening” Jan. 22-23, has finally moved into its building in northeast Bend at 63063 Layton Ave. The space has been there and marked for the past year, but sat empty.
Named after a bridge over the Metolius River, Bridge 99 Brewery was started by contractors Rod Kremer and Trevor Hawman in 2013. They spent the first year brewing professionally on a 1.5-barrel system, which is destined to become Bridge 99’s pilot system after a planned expansion to a 10-barrel system.
“It’s our next goal,” Hawman said. “We’re not sure how far it is out, but it’s the next move.”
Kremer and Hawman started like many of the new-school brewers — homebrewing in a garage. Hawman said both he and Kremer were obsessive about homebrewing, both never too proud to dump out a batch if it didn’t turn out well. They brewed every weekend, tasting and tweaking recipes, adding depth and experience to their beer education.
“We were determined to make something perfect,” Hawman said. “We put a lot of research into it to make what we thought beer should be.”
Since the beginning, the beers have had a steady flow through taps at neighboring restaurant, Wubba’s BBQ Shack. Bridge 99 purchased and installed six taps at the restaurant to serve their beer while they finished building the tasting room.
Considering the owners are both contractors, they spared no expense or effort when building the new taproom. Outside, hops will grow on a hill adjacent to the patio, where tables and a fire pit will invite summer imbibers. Inside, with an 800-year-old redwood bar and hand-cut, raw juniper paneling, the owners clearly put their heads together to create a one-of-a-kind feel in the small tasting area.
Nine taps line the wall, with everything from the Green Ridge Lager to the Bull Trout Stout. But the brewery doesn’t stop there — they’re also barrel-aging here and there with Oregon Spirit Distillers barrels, releasing a barrel-aged red on their opening date.
Besides the barrel-aging with local barrels, the brewery has shown a large local focus. Bridge 99 has already started giving their spent grain to local farmers and working on water recycling, along with sourcing some of their hops from Tumalo Hop Farm, located between Bend and Sisters.
Ultimately, Hawman and Kremer are looking to take this on full time. While still working their construction jobs, they are able to keep brewing on their small system and distribute to local restaurants and growler fill stations. But as they work toward more distribution, they are going to look to make it full time.
“I don’t think I can work construction forever, you know?” Hawman said.
They are entering the ever-competitive Central Oregon market — 19 breweries in Bend’s city limits alone. Hawman said they know they are taking on a large challenge, but they can’t worry about competing.
“We make easy, drinkable beers. We’re trying to stay away from adding too many extra things,” he said. “But, were not going to compare to others. Bend has a lot of variety, and we’re very excited to be a part of it.”
Bridge 99 Brewery
[a] 63063 Layton Ave., Bend
Hours: Wed–Sat 3-6 p.m.*
*Other visits by appointment
By Sam Wheeler
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The secret is out.
Some of Southern Oregon’s best craft beer flows from the side panel of a 1930 Ford Tudor Sedan.
Medford-based nano Rusty Bucket Brewing is embarking on its sophomore year in the Rogue Valley’s flourishing craft brew scene, and owner Paul Woolley is working on plans to open a brewery and taproom for the public within 18 months.
It’s not that Woolley’s garage, where he used to build custom hot rods, is a bad place to brew beer or drink it, it’s just that Rusty Bucket has been flooring it since the flag dropped go.
Rusty Bucket’s Sniper, a dead-on imperial IPA, is what everyone is after, Woolley says.
“It’s a pretty awesome beer ... a home-run hitter,” he says.
“You have to be careful with it because it’s really easy to drink and it’s about 8.9 to 9 percent. But it doesn’t slap you in the face and make your eyes water, so you’ll keep drinking them. Then you’ll get up and you can’t walk,” he laughs, stirring hops into another boiling batch of brew just inside the open door of his garage.
Woolley says Rusty Bucket will most likely never sign a distribution agreement on his watch. While his dreams for Rusty Bucket may be small, they are of magnificent quality.
Tap to glass, that’s how beer is meant to go down. And that’s how Rusty Bucket’s fine brew exclusively will, he says.
Rusty Bucket’s brewery and taproom will likely be located in Central Point, Medford or Talent. Until then, Rusty Bucket beer can be found on tap at four locations in Southern Oregon: Growler King, 1211 E. Jackson St., Medford; Oregon Pour Authority, 208 NW Sixth St., Grants Pass; Frank N Stene's Monster Growlers, 950 SW Sixth St., Grants Pass; and Old 99 Road Beer & Wine — where you can also drink a pint — at 18 W. Stewart Ave., Medford.
Woolley says he has to turn down a few new accounts each month because he wouldn’t be able to brew enough beer on his 1-barrel system to satisfy that many customers. Currently, he is brewing between two and four barrels a week.
Once he finds a building for Rusty Bucket’s taproom and brewery, he plans to upgrade to a 5-barrel system and will probably stay that size until it’s time to call it quits or pass the torch.
“Going for it big is for the young guys. I am getting too old for that,” says Woolley, 55. “I am just passionate about beer.”
In addition to Rusty Bucket’s Sniper Imperial IPA, there is Bunkhouse Brown Ale that tastes like the usual straightforward malt before balancing out with a modest burst to hops; 5 Speed IPA is a smooth drinker with citrus tones and comes in at a comfortable 6.5 percent and 70 IBUs; Rusty Red is at its roots just a hopped-up amber — and one of Woolley’s first brews — but its malty edge and hoppy clean finish makes it a winner; and Wide Open Throttle Stout ... well you get the idea. It packs the punch and grace of a race car weaving through the pack and making it across the finish line first.
With plenty in the tank, Woolley thinks Rusty Bucket will be able to hang — quality-wise — with any brewery in Oregon for years to come. And what better place than right where he is at, he says.
“I think we’re just getting started down here. I think we’re going to see this place become a little bit like Bend ... we have the demographic here,” says Woolley.
The only problem any beer maker in Southern Oregon has, Woolley insists, is not being able to make enough beer.
And there are certainly worse problems to have.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.