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.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.