It may be Dry January for some, but there’s no shortage of unique ideas in the alcohol world to become more sustainable. Breweries, wineries, and distilleries around the globe are finding ways to make sure their beverages can help protect the environment. A winery in Portugal is sending their pressed grapes to be turned into organic fertilizer. A family-owned rum distillery in Colorado is 100 percent wind-powered. A distillery founded by members of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is producing vodka from lactose sugar in whey, a byproduct of cheese-making. Creative and inspirational stories like these are popping up all over the world of beer, wine, and spirits.
Food Tank is highlighting 24 breweries, wineries, and distilleries making it easier to prioritize the planet during your next night out: Alaskan Brewing Co., Alaska, U.S.; Bakers Best, Leeuwarden, Netherlands; Brewery Vivant, Michigan, U.S.; Copper Crow Distillery, Wisconsin, U.S.; Dry Farm Wines, California, U.S.; Dulce Vida Tequila, Texas, U.S.; Ernest Cider Co., Ontario, Canada; Fetzer Vineyards, California, U.S.; Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing, New York, U.S.; Full Sail Brewing Co., Oregon, U.S.; Frey Ranch Distillery, Nevada, U.S.; Haint Blue Brewing Co., Alabama, U.S.; Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Virginia, U.S.; Jack Rabbit Hill Farm, Colorado, U.S.; Lubanzi Wines, Cape Town, South Africa; Marble Distilling Co, Colorado, U.S..; Montanya Distillers LLC, Colorado, U.S.; New Belgium Brewing Company, Colorado, U.S.; Novo Fogo, Morretes, Brazil; Perlage Winery, Veneto, Italy; Sawmill Brewery, Matakana, New Zealand; Swilled Dog Hard Cider, West Virginia, U.S.; Symington Family Estates, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal; and Toast Ale, London, U.K. and New York, U.S.
Contributing Author: Katherine Walla
As eaters become more interested in not just where—but how—their food and beverages are made, breweries, wineries, and distilleries are searching for ways to make their products more environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.
A 2018 study from PLOS ONE found that consumers are willing to pay around US$1.30 more per six-pack to purchase a sustainably produced beer over a non-sustainable option. And with new innovations in energy production, fermenting, brewing, recycling, upcycling, and reusing in the alcoholic beverage industry, consumers are finding more reasons to drink responsibly–and help the planet.
And while it may be dry January for some, these 23 breweries, distilleries, and wineries are already imbibing—with a resolution to protect their communities and planet.
1. Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, Alaska
Alaskan Brewing Co. is committed to environmental stewardship in creating beer by reusing as much waste and emissions as they produce. Deemed “beer-powered beer,” Alaskan Brewing’s product comes from a facility boasting a carbon dioxide reclamation system since 1998 which captures and cleans carbon dioxide, using it to package the beer and purge oxygen from holding tanks. The brewery also dries and sends spent grain to farmers in the Pacific Northwest and uses a mash filter press to create their beer, using nearly 2 million fewer gallons of water.
2. Bakers Best, Leeuwarden, Netherlands
Bakers Best creates an “eco-gin” transforming waste into a genever flavour in recycled glass. The distillers take leftover bread—seven slices per bottle—and incorporate the bread into a traditional style of gin in the Netherlands which boasts a malty flavour.
3. Brewery Vivant, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Brewery Vivant proudly holds the title of the first production brewery to receive LEED certification. Brewery Vivant not only built a sustainable building and grounds to host the brewery—with high-efficiency HVAC systems and rainwater harvesting to irrigate the property—but also sources 90 percent of their materials locally, employs a three to one water-to-beer ratio, and diverted all of its waste from landfills.
4. Copper Crow Distillery, Bayfield, Wisconsin
Copper Crow Distillery, founded by members of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and operated within the boundaries of the reservation, is taking a Wisconsin-centered approach to their sustainability goals. Using whey—a byproduct of making cheese—the distillery ferments lactose sugar into vodka.
5. Dry Farm Wines, Napa, California
Dry Farm Wines accumulates family-farmed wines that are low in alcohol, sugar-free, and carb-free. Sourcing grapes that are crafted with traditional winemaking practices—like dry or irrigation-less farming, wild native yeast fermentation, no adding sugar, and using older growth vines—Dry Farm Wines procures wines that are friendly for paleo, carb-free, sugar-free, and other diets. The farmers who make their wines on biodynamic farms form a system, adding trees, flowers, vegetables, and livestock to their operations to boost soil health, avoid pesticide use, and lessen the need for intensive irrigation.
6. Dulce Vida Tequila, Austin, Texas
Dulce Vida Tequila aims to be a partner to the environment and the local community in producing their tequila by protecting local land in Mexico, supporting methane-capturing soil bacteria, and limiting waste. Dulce Vida uses sustainable and organic practices to grow their agave, avoiding herbicide use, pesticide use, and other agricultural processes that could possibly hurt their farming communities. Their waste system divides fibrous waste and liquid by-products treat them and then composts the waste to create rich soil nutrients.
7. Ernest Cider Co., Ontario, Canada
Led by a husband and wife duo, Ernest Cider Co. sources their ingredients—apples, honey, and fruit—from local farmers, only taking fruit during normal harvesting seasons and supporting bee-saving research and awareness. Ernest Cider Co. is also powered by green energy from wind and water sources, representing 18-megawatt hours of green energy and avoiding 3.2 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. And, to limit water use, Ernest Cider Co. never dilutes their cider with water, reducing their impact on local freshwater supply.
8. Fetzer Vineyards, Hopland, California
Although the 50-year-old vineyard has crafted wine while aiming to sustainably farm and support the land, the vineyard’s recent sustainable commitments have earned Fetzer a B-Corp certification. Fetzer’s water treatment system—using worms and microbes—saves up to one million kilowatt-hours of electricity use each year, enough to power 1,100 homes in the U.S. Fetzer reduces its waste each year, aiming for 99.9 percent waste diversion by 2020. And, through their sustainable farming practices, Fetzer has eliminated the need for fossil fuel-based chemical use on their vineyards, reducing their carbon footprint.
9. Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing, Westfield, New York
Five & ’20s grain to glass model ensures that every ingredient is local, but also that their waste benefits local ecosystems. Partnering with TimberFish Technologies in 2016, Five & 20 reuses all the byproduct nutrients from their distillery to produce fish like trout and salmon—resulting in not only high-quality fish at a low price, but also naturally cleaned water and high energy biofuel.
10. Frey Ranch Distillery, Fallon, Nevada
On Frey Ranch, fifth-generation farmer Colby Frey continues his family’s legacy of treating the land with respect to grow grains like corn, oats, barley, and rye. For their line of liquors including gin, vodka, absinthe, and bourbon, the Frey Ranch sources all their ingredients—even their botanicals—from their ranch alone. The ground-to-glass operation limits transportation-related emissions during the liquor making process and ensures that everything in their bottles is carefully grown.
11. Full Sail Brewing Co., Hood River, Oregon
Full Sail started their sustainability journey before their first batch, in the abandoned Diamond Fruit Cannery. Reclaiming as much of the building as they could, Full Sail Brewing created an energy-efficient venue to create their brews, which source locally and produce byproducts that turn into feed or ingredients for baking. Full Sail Brewing also boasts a water-to-beer ratio of less than three to one, whereas most breweries lie between six or eight to one.
12. Haint Blue Brewing Co., Mobile, Alabama
Haint Blue Brewing not only sources their ingredients locally, donates all their grain to farmers for feed, and keeps their waste out of the landfill, but the brewery challenges their community to make similar changes. The brewery encourages their neighbourhood to recycle, and as a reward, transports the accumulated recycled products to the City of Mobile’s Recycling Center every Friday for free—in a Tesla, to limit their footprint.
13. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Richmond, Virginia
Hardywood staff brew with a purpose—environmental stewardship, sourcing local, and community engagement. The brewery is powered entirely by renewable energy including solar, biomass, and wind power. Hardywood also sends spent grain to farms for compost and feed, and their beer has earned the recognition and support of environmental awareness and protection organizations.
14. Jack Rabbit Hill Farm, Hotchkiss, Colorado
Jack Rabbit Hill Farm is, in fact, a diversified farm including 18 acres of grapes, but also pasture, sheep, cows, and herbs across its total 70 acres. In producing Jack Rabbit Hill Farm Wines, MEll Zero Waste Vodka, and CapRock gin, the farm uses clean growing practices and biodynamic farming powered by fungi, soil critters, bacteria, carbon, natural light, and more. And after learning that only 30 percent of glass is recycled, the farm started reuse and refill bottle program for their vodka in which farm staff members collect empty bottles and refill them for reuse.
15. Lubanzi Wines, Cape Town, South Africa
Lubanzi Wines uses several sustainable practices to produce its wines, expanding its definition to include social responsibility. The winery only works with farms that are Integrity and Sustainability Certified, which includes standards for not only sustainable grape production, but also manufacturing practices and packaging activities: for example, Lubanzi’s labels are made entirely from recycled sugar cane pulp. Giving back to the community, Lubanzi not only ensures that their workers enjoy good working conditions and a fair wage, but they also give 50 percent of their profits to the Pebbles Project—an NGO that works with low-income families who live and work on South Africa’s wine farms.
16. Marble Distilling Co., Carbondale, Colorado
With their motto “Drink Sustainably,” using sustainable methods to distil alcohol is central to Marble Distilling Co.’s mission. Throughout their processes, the distillers recapture 100 percent of their process water and reuse energy that they harvest form distilling to heat their facility through a water energy thermal system. From their process, Marble Distilling Co. estimates that their assortment of vodka, whiskeys, and liqueurs saves 4 million gallons of water per year and 14,500 pounds of carbon per year.
17. Montanya Distillers LLC, Crested Butte, Colorado
This female-founded distillery creates rum with a passion for the planet and their communities. The distillery is 100 percent wind-powered through a partnership with Arcadia Power and offsets 55 metric tons of carbon emissions in 2018 with programs that plant trees, install innovative renewable energy grids, and capture methane from landfills. The distillery also purchases their sugar cane American-grown and has reduced their landfill-bound waste by 75 percent.
18. New Belgium Brewing Company, Asheville, North Carolina
Having made a commitment to be a force for good, New Belgium Brewing Company has taken a number of actions to protect the climate—which protects beer’s ingredients and production. These measures include installing solar panels, creating electricity from wastewater, capturing heat in the brewing process, attaining LEED Certification—and pressing their suppliers and policymakers to make similar, climate-friendly changes in their respective fields. And after one year at the brewery, each employee receives a bike to help limit their footprint.
19. Novo Fogo, Floresta Atlântica, Brazil
Located in Brazil’s coastal rainforest and the world’s second-largest Biosphere Reserve—Floresta Atlântica—Novo Fogo is committed to protecting the forest’s animal and plant diversity. Making the sugarcane-based cachaça, Novo Fogo processes their cane minimally and commits to a zero-waste process. The distillery is located on a slope so that liquids flow naturally from room to room—rather than pushed by motorized pumps. And instead of burning fields—one of the causes of massive ecosystem destruction—Novo Fogo harvests cane by hand from their organic fields.
20. Perlage Winery, Veneto, Italy
A certified B-Corp, Perlage Winery aims to support the territory and the planetary resources they use to produce their organic wine—certified since 1985. Through soil conserving practices and awareness, Perlage also aims to promote the area of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, the birthplace of Prosecco and a candidate to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The winery also collaborates with local producers and growers and supports the community with cultural events, open to the public.
21. Sawmill Brewery, Matakana, New Zealand
Sawmill Brewery upholds a number of environmental standards by using solar energy to supply up to 97 percent of their power, capturing water from their roof and treating wastewater for irrigating surrounding land, and on-site composting. Although ravaged by fire in late 2019, the brewery plans to join with other like-minded breweries in the region to keep up production.
22. Swilled Dog Hard Cider, Franklin, West Virginia
While many cider makers source their apple juice from overseas, local cider makers like Swilled Dog Hard Cider are sourcing their apples from more nearby. Working with farmers in West Virginia, Swilled Dog Hard Cider not only produces their award-winning product but also works on planting more cider-specific apple types, supporting the biodiversity that allows their operations to exist. Their orchards made up of heirloom and other types of apples will educate consumers about how biodiversity can contribute to their favourite beverages.
23. Symington Family Estates, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Symington Family Estates’ sustainable strategies cover responsible farming, water conservation, biodiversity protection, and more. The winery treats their water across 15 sites, sending the waste from the water treatment with waste from pressed grapes to companies creating organic fertilizers. Symington uses recycled cardboard and glass for their packaging, solar thermal heating for several facilities, and low water to must ratio to create their wine. Their solar panels save 10.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, while their organic farming, cover-cropping, terracing, and forest regeneration help to support the quality of the land. And, across their research sites, Symington is supporting 53 grape varieties to help keep indigenous Douro varieties and Portuguese varieties alive.
24. Toast Ale, London, United Kingdom and New York City, New York
Toast Ale, a U.K.-based company, is brewing beer from leftover bread that would otherwise be wasted, including unsold loaves from bakeries and unused crusts from sandwich makers. Toastmaster Tristram Stuart only adds hops, yeast, and water to create this award-winning beer. Toast Ale directs all profits to charities that also have missions to end food waste. The brewery now also brews in New York, as one-third of bread in the United States is wasted, according to Toast Ale.
(Danielle Nierenberg is President of Food Tank and an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues. She has written extensively on gender and population, the spread of factory farming in the developing world and innovations in sustainable agriculture.)