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Brewery Taproom

Why Independent Brewers Matter

There are plenty of reasons to drink craft beer instead of the big name brews—it tastes better and offers more variety, for starters. But the craft beer revolution isn’t just good for your taste buds. Supporting independent breweries is good for the community, the economy, and the planet as a whole.

That’s right—drinking locally comes with some major benefits outside of just drinking better beer.

There were over 7,300 craft breweries operating in 2018, up 13% from the previous year and nearly doubling the amount operating in 2013, just five years previous. It’s a booming industry, and yet all those breweries combined to make up just 13.2% of the market by volume. Import beers grabbed up 18.4%, while the remaining 68.5% of the market went to the domestic big boys—mainly MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev.

This means that, even though craft beer drinkers are a growing population, they’re still a major minority of the beer-drinking world. And that’s a real shame, since there are so many reasons to choose craft breweries.

1. Independent Breweries Offer More Variety

Let’s start with the obvious benefit of the independent beer scene—variety. Each of these breweries is following its own recipes, which means that you have thousands upon thousands of beers to choose from. Trends like the recent boom in IPAs and the current popularization of sour beers are a direct result of this variety.

Craft brewers enjoy putting their own spins on classic varieties. Take the Gose style, pronounced “goze-uh,” which originated in Gosler, Germany, hundreds of years ago… and pretty much remained there until very recently. Now it seems like every brewer is offering their own unique spin on this lightly sour style, which lends itself well to experimental combinations of fruit and herbs.

2. Craft Brewers Create New Styles

Revitalizing old styles is just one part of the game. Innovating them is the other. The immensely popular, and immensely hopped, IPAs are an example of modern craft brewers pushing the envelope and creating an entirely new style. What sort of innovations have the macro breweries offered us? Color-changing cans and Strawberry Lime-a-Ritas.

They’ll even go so far as to stymie innovation by hoarding resources, like the time AB InBev bought up the entire South African hops supply and kept it to themselves.

Need more reasons independent brewers matter?

3. Craft Brewers Support Their Communities

Not only do they make more interesting beers; Craft brewers tend to be more ethically responsible, and community minded as well. And not just because they don’t snatch up entire crop cycles for themselves.

Many craft brewers use locally-sourced ingredients, like hops, grains, and fruits from local farms. This allows for more variety, sure, but it also means more money and exposure for other small businesses.

Macro-breweries take the opposite approach. Often, they’ll force freshly acquired “zombie breweries”* to drop locally sourced or independently produced ingredients in favor of their mass-produced supply.

*[“Zombie breweries” are former independent breweries who were bought out by AB InBev or MillerCoors, but continue operations under their own branding. They look and act like independent breweries, but they are not. ]

4. Small Breweries Make Big Economic Impacts

It’s estimated that 85-90% of the beer made in Canada is also consumed in Canada, so Canadians are already doing their part when it comes to drinking locally. But local breweries are also doing their part for Canada’s economy—craft brewers purchased more than 300,000 tonnes of Canadian malting barley, for example. And it’s estimated that Canada’s beer industry has three times the economic impact of the nation’s wine and spirits industries combined

Craft breweries also employ local people. When AB InBev bought Rolling Rock and moved production out of Latrobe, PA, the resulting loss of jobs was so great that local unions boycotted Anheuser-Busch products for a full year. What had once been one of the country’s largest breweries, and the area’s largest employers, was shut down in the name of boosting profits for a multi-billion-dollar global conglomeration.

Wouldn’t you rather drink something made by the people in your town?

5. Drinking Locally is More Sustainable

Small breweries make more environmentally conscious decisions than the big guys. For instance, Florida’s Saltwater Brewery recently introduced biodegradable six-pack rings for their beers, which will hopefully become the industry standard. Beau’s Brewing Company in Ontario is powered entirely by renewable energy and is a registered B Corporation, meaning they’re allowed to follow their moral compasses and not just maximize profits at all costs. And since craft breweries rely more on locally sourced ingredients, and local sales, their carbon footprints generally remain smaller.

Going green isn’t a new trend in brewing—since 1990, the Canadian brewing industry has reduced its total energy consumption by 58%.

Many craft breweries are actively involved in environmental causes—and not just for altruistic reasons. Because craft beer is all about flavor, craft brewers have a natural investment in making sure they have access to fresh, clean ingredients—especially water. New York’s Brewery Ommegang led a high-profile fight against a planned fracking project in their state, which could have ruined the quality of the brewery’s water source. Since beer is mostly water, the brewery obviously had an interest in preventing this project from happening. The attention they brought to the project helped make sure the fracking project never got started.

Saving the environment, supporting the local economy and community, and just flat-out producing good (and innovative) beer—that’s what craft brewing is all about. The next time you take a six-pack off the shelf, make sure it’s a local beer and see what makes the little guys so great!

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Brewing Sustainability

How Breweries Are Moving Towards Environmentally Friendly Beer to Combat Climate Change

We may not always be thinking about the environmental impact of the products that we use and consume on a regular basis. However, these products tend to have a much higher environmental impact than we might believe they do.

Beer is one of these products.

These days, more and more breweries are following the footsteps of breweries such as New Belgium Brewing Company in Colorado, a brewery that is dedicated to increasing their sustainability efforts by striving to reduce their carbon footprint and landfill waste every year.

New Belgium Brewing began their sustainability mission in 2003, and more and more breweries are joining the fight against climate change every day, including many craft breweries in Canada.

But why are breweries worried about sustainability? It’s no secret that climate change is much more severe and immediate than was once believed. This has led countries such as Australia, Britain, Ireland, Australia, and even some parts of Canada and the USA to declare a climate emergency.

This push for action and change has not stopped, either, with many communities around the world continuing to push their governments to declare a climate emergency. In tune with these recent climate movements, many breweries have started going green by reusing their water, reducing and donating grain waste, using recycled and reusable packaging, and using green energy.

But how much damage are breweries really doing to the environment? Between brewing, packaging, and transport, it’s fairly significant.

Brewing

The waste created from brewing beer can be broken down into three main categories: electricity, natural gas, and solid waste.

Spent Grain is what is left after the mashing process.

Electricity use of course varies depending on the size of the brewery. Sestra estimated that a brewery the size of New Belgium would emit around 250g CO2 equivalents (CO2e) per 6-pack of bottles if they did not use reusable energy.

The use of natural gas, on the other hand, is not so avoidable. New Belgium estimates their Natural Gas emissions to be 123g CO2e per six pack.  

Solid waste is fortunately much easier to avoid. Most farmers these days will donate or sell their spent grain to local farmers to use as feed. Additionally, spent grain can be used to make bread, cookies, and even dog biscuits, as it is rich with protein and nutrients.

Image result for kveik
kveik is attached to string or wood so that
 it can be preserved after each brew.

Many breweries are beginning to save and reuse their yeast from brew to brew. This practice is not new; for centuries, people in Norway used a type of yeast called kveik, which is actually multiple strains of yeast clustered together. Brewers would save and reuse this yeast, and pass it down through generations. Kveik is an essential ingredient in Norwegian Farmhouse Ale

Packaging

The environmental impact of packaging beer depends on a few things.

First, it depends on whether the beer is packaged in bottles or cans. The environmental impact would also increase or decrease based on whether or not the manufacturer uses recycled material, as well as how far the finished product would have to travel.

According to David Amienyo and Adisa Azapagic, in their case study on the environmental life cycle of beer, packaging makes up 19% to 46 % of the environmental impact of beer production.

In their research, New Belgium Brewing Company found that the carbon footprint of a 6-pack of bottles is 3,188.8 grams of CO2 equivalents.

To show just how much of an impact this big of a carbon footprint has, Sestra explains that “an average adult tree will absorb 59.65 grams CO2 per day. It would take a single tree 53.46 days – or almost two months – to offset the carbon emissions of a single six pack of beer.” Now, multiply that by the millions of beer bottles created per day around the world… that’s a lot of CO2.  

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/LylSZuX0clzH7snEASjxglaoSH_yx9RCS-8ZVgJNKOMSN_13m0uUI3TLbgEhWL_nKicBXNJ6fmAsB9coO_JZkwKNNJwaXtTHeMtSD2YmW2W6ehQ1HdI9n-OrmoF5BZ2jvKbR2s-_

This chart compares the climate impact of different beer packaging during each stage of production.  See: Amienyo, David.

 Bottles or Cans?

Beer Canada found that, in Canada, the amount of cans used over bottles has changed significantly in the last 5 years. Cans are cheaper to make and to transport, but are they more environmentally friendly than bottles?

Amienyo and Azapagic found that, overall, neither cans nor bottles are very sustainable.

Glass bottles are less dangerous to human and marine life, but they require more energy to make and transport.

Aluminum cans require less energy to make and have less impact on the ozone layer, but they are much more harmful to human and marine life.

Instead of bottles or cans, considering buying a refillable growler from your local brewery, or hang out in their Tap Room. Supporting local breweries is about more than just beer – it’s about supporting and strengthening your community.

How can you reduce your carbon footprint from drinking beer?

1)  Drink Local Beer

Craft breweries often source their ingredients locally, an act which only reduces their carbon footprint from having to import ingredients. But, because they support local farmers, you will be supporting those same farmers by buying local beer — not craft beer in general, but beer from breweries that are in your immediate area.

2)  Get a Reusable Growler

Since so much of beer’s carbon footprint comes from the production of bottles and cans, opting to use a refillable growler – which you can fill at your local brewery – will save your trees from having to absorb the months worth of carbon emissions created by that 6-pack of bottles you would have drank instead.

3)  For Brewers: Track Your Inventory!

While it’s necessary to track your inventory, it’s important that you track your waste, too. You can’t move towards sustainable brewing if you don’t know what parts of your process are unsustainable, so keep track! Thankfully, companies like Brew Ninja make software that allows for breweries to track not only their materials and brews, but their waste as well.

It isn’t hard to reduce your waste. This is the only planet we have; we need to take care of it in every way we can before it dies for good, and that includes changing the way that we drink beer.

Check out New Belgium’s Sustainability report here to see what they’re doing to increase their sustainability efforts.

 

 

 

Sources:

“Life cycle environmental impacts and costs of beer production and consumption in the UK.” The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, vol. 21, no. 4, 2016, pp. 492-509.

Beercanadacheers. “% Sales by Package Type Chart.” Instagram, 27 May 2019, www.instagram.com/p/Bx-GZAcAKoO/.

Brewers Association, Solid Waste Reduction Manual.  https://www.brewersassociation.org/attachments/0001/1529/Sustainability_Manual_Solid_waste.pdf

“The Carbon Footprint of Beer.” Sestra Systems, Sestra Systems, Inc., 25 Aug. 2017, www.sestrasystems.com/carbon-footprint-beer/.

Minogue, Sean. “Ontario Craft Brewers Move towards More Sustainable Suds.” NOW Magazine, NOW Communications Inc. , 24 July 2018, nowtoronto.com/food-and-drink/drinks/ontario-craft-brewers-move-towards-more-sustainable-suds/.

 

10 Tips for Starting a Brewery

With a bang, not a whimper

Starting a Brewery
Thinking of opening a brewery? Read our top tips for getting started.

So you wanna open a brewery? We don’t blame you! Breweries are becoming the center of communities. They bring people together for the brilliant beers, but they keep people coming for the connections they help create.

We’ve seen many passionate brewers in our day, and they all want the same thing: to create delicious beer. But sometimes, brewers don’t always get to focus on the beer when they first get started. There are so many operational details they have to manage like inventory, staffing, tank maintenance, sales, and more.

Brew Ninja wants to ease brewery management for breweries. These are our tips for starting a brewery on the right foot.

1. Be prepared for everything to take twice as long.

From zoning to brewing regulations, there is plenty of red tape that makes starting your dream brewery difficult. But, you know it’s not impossible with the craft brewing industry exploding as it has over the past 10 years. All we’re saying is that it’s wise to leave a time cushion for navigating the paperwork.

2. Lean on other craft brewers.

One of the best parts of the craft brewing industry is the camaraderie. Anytime you have a question, you can always lean on another brewer. The Craft Brewers Association is a valuable resource for our industry, so tap into that as soon as you can!

3. Choose your location wisely.

Your location becomes your community. When choosing a location for your business it is important to locate yourself as close to your customer demographic as possible. It also is beneficial to be within walking distance other breweries to be a part of the local brewery hopping. It helps being near facilities that add to your patrons thirst 😏

4. Launch with a bang 💥

As we see it, there’s no such thing as a “soft launch” in the craft brewery industry. BrewNinja’s founder, Shea Martin, says, “launch with a bang, not a whimper.” Your launch is essential for starting on the right foot for many reasons, including getting people in the door on day one.

Install your brewery sign before you even finish the interior to catch those curious looks from passers-by. Get your social media profiles live at least one month before the launch and start hyping up your new brewery. Word of mouth spreads like wildfire. Start by visiting neighbouring businesses to spread the word! By including your community, you will launch with a pre-established loyal customer base.

5. Keep Track of EVERYTHING.

Five years from now, you could forget all about the failed experiments you brewed featuring gummy bears and fuzzy peach candy. If you don’t track it, you’ll forget, and that leads to inefficient business.

Keep photos of brewery inspirations in your travels and note down any possible partnerships for swag, collaborations, and media. You never know how that information will help you in the future.

6. Work with an accountant that understands breweries and local regulations.

Having someone well-versed in this industry will save you so much time and, potentially, legal headaches. It may seem that you need to know it all as a brewery owner, but having the right partners will ease that stress for you.

7. Automate your processes with software.

Starting a brewery is hard. Don’t make it harder for yourself by using complicated excel sheets to keep track of production and inventory. Try to make it easy on yourself by automating tasks you can. With Brew Ninja’s software, you can easily track your inventory and see how much you are spending throughout your brewing process – right down to the final packaged product.

8. Test it and move on if it’s not performing.

Whatever you put out, keep an eye on its performance. Cans, tasting room pints, brewery swag – whatever you’re selling, be ready to replace it if it’s not selling! Test it out and move on. Don’t hold a sentimental attachment to a lackluster product.

9. Develop your flavour niche.

With so many breweries fighting for the consumer’s taste buds, it is crucial that you develop your own flavour. Producing a style that is unique from big brands or neighbouring breweries will help your product stand out. By focusing on beer with a certain twist, such as beer flavored with local fruit, your brand will be superior!

10. Know your distribution.

Now that you have good beer ready to serve, it’s time to get it in the hands of the consumer. Having a tasting room will let people try your product, but having it on the shelf at beer stores will boost your awareness even more. Research your local distribution channels and always factor distribution costs, which are not cheap, into your decision to start a brewery.

Beer
A sign that speaks to us!

Now, you have our top tips for starting out, so get that brewery going and invite us for a pint! Starting a brewery takes a lot of passion, but also a lot of planning, and we can help with the planning part. Brew Ninja helps you brew, track, sell, purchase, deliver and communicate to make your operations run smooth.

Want more tips? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us!