Local Brewers Raise the Bar on Sustainability

By Laurie Delk / Photography By Chris Rov Costa | September 01, 2015
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Organic. Sustainable. Recyclable. Going green. Not simply marketing buzzwords, these are practices Californians live and breathe every day. Routinely on the forefront of social and environmental movements, Californians take their food, their water and even their beer very seriously.

We love our suds after a day of surfing, biking or hiking, and just as we expect our oceans and roads to be clean and consciously managed, we demand the same of our favorite bubbly beverage. Craft brewers in San Diego take special care to address sustainability and strive for practices that harmonize with the local and global environment.

The San Diego Brewers Guild takes a practical and educational approach to sustainability and green initiatives. Says President Kevin Hopkins, "The San Diego Brewers Guild has partnered with both SDSU and UCSD's education programs to encourage education that incorporates sustainability into any brewing operation, large and small."

Simply put, they aim to educate brewers and brewery owners that by giving attention to process and infrastructure, the craft beer industry can practice what he terms "responsible manufacturing." Breweries countywide are utilizing this approach in encouraging ways.

Perhaps the best known and impactful in the area is the world-famous Stone Brewing. Their water reclamation system, in place since 2008, keeps 75,000 gallons of wastewater out of the sewers each day. Their Escondido location contains solar panels that power 30% of the facility and brewery, is SITE certified (the equivalent of LEED for outdoor spaces) and is part of the international Slow Food movement. Even the beer delivered to your favorite local public house comes via their fleet of bio-diesel trucks. Capturing every level of sustainability at their Escondido and Liberty Station locations, they utilize vegetables from their own Stone Farms, which produces 15-20% of their ingredients, supplies jobs to Stone employees and is mulched by Stone Brewing's own spent grain and kitchen compost. Talk about the circle of life!

Another environmentally conscious local brewery is Mike Hess in North Park, which thinks and acts green in everything from water use to incorporating local ingredients to grain sustainability in production—even down to the details of the tasting room.

Using "good ol' San Diego tap water," they eliminate processes that strip the water and end up in the sewers, and instead employ a carbon filter and a tank-exchange system, reusing the cold water used to chill wort and sending it back into their hot water tank. In one of their most famous beers, the Jucundus Orange Honey Wheat, they have sourced both Temecula honey and California Orange Blossom Honey and work with local coffee roasters Coffee & Tea Collective, Caffe Calabria and Swell for their specialty beers. They deliver their seven tons of spent grain per week to local farmers including Poway's Konyn Dairy. The brewery has no air conditioning, instead using energy-efficient fans, and their tasting room boasts LED lights, along with waterless urinals, low-flow toilets and motion-activated sinks in the bathrooms.

Jason Stockberger
Stone Bistro Garden
Stone Brewery
Star B Hop Bison and Hop Farm
Photo 1: Jason Stockberger Head Brewer of Mike Hess Brewing company and Wet Hops from Star B Ranch
Photo 2: Stone Bistro Garden
Photo 3: Stone Brewery recycles water in their brewing process
Photo 4: Star B Hop Bison and Hop Farm Ramona, CA

Local veteran Ballast Point, in addition to sending spent production grain for animal feed and using reclaimed and refurbished equipment, plans to continue and expand their use of solar power and will soon be installing a new condenser on their still that will save 9,000 gallons of water monthly for Ballast Point Spirits.

Animal lovers will cheer for Green Flash, who take the spent grain scenario to a whole new level with their Doggie Beer Bones, made with barley flour to satisfy craft beer fans' best friend. The popular brewery is also opening a location on the East Coast, which will result in a greatly reduced carbon footprint, as fuel, emissions and packaging will be slashed.

Local favorite Monkey Paw keeps the drought and water shortage constantly in mind by planning their brew days to recycle water into multiple tanks and only fill/heat what is necessary. They have working relationships with local farms, including Suzie's, Stone Farms and Star B Ranch. Most notable is their work with local hop farm Star B Ranch, including the use of their crop in their wet hop beers. Craft beer fans will remember Brainfood, a beer brewed in collaboration with Eric March of Star B and Alchemy, to support the Albert Einstein Academies, along with Witch Creek, a 5% Wet-Hopped XPA.

Star B Ranch, located in Ramona, is an organic hop farm with 300 bines (climbing hop plants) including varieties like Cascade, Chinook, Nugget and Crystal, along with experimental handfuls of Columbus, Glacier, Mt. Hood, Sterling and Neo-1. In addition to working closely with Monkey Paw, Star B has also worked with local favorites Tom Nickel of Nickel Brewing, Helm's, Chuck Alek in Ramona and San Diego Brewing Co, which produced Star B's first commercial beer.

Brewed for the 2011 Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), the Double IPA Belgian Grand Cru led to more relationships for the hop farmer.

When asked the importance of using fresh, local, organic hops as opposed to hop pellets, Eric replies, "It's like a Caprese salad. Do you want to use fresh basil or dried basil?" Indeed, the wet hop movement is hot in the craft beer scene in California, from local offerings to the well-known Sierra Nevada releases. Look for San Diego breweries to begin releasing these refreshing hop bombs beginning in August, when the harvesting season begins. Local homebrewers can reach out to Eric as well for same-day delivery on their favorite wet hops.

Corie and Gary Johndro of San Diego Golden Hop Farm moved here from Santa Barbara about a year ago with the intention of growing organic hops for local beer brewers, both hobbiests and breweries. As self-described locovores, Slow Food enthusiasts and avid home brewers they have committed to growing several different hop varieties, many of which have not been grown in San Diego to date. This year they have sold hops or received commitments to purchase hops from Culture, Nickel, Monkey Paw, Rough Draft, 2Kids, Duckfoot and Amplified.

Cheers to these breweries and farms that are leading the charge for a more responsible and sustainable brewing industry!

Stone Brewing
795 J St, San Diego, CA 92101

Mike Hess
7955 Silverton Ave #1201, San Diego, CA 92126

Ballast Point
9045 Carroll Way, San Diego, CA 92121

Green Flash
6550 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92121

Monkey Paw
805 16th St, San Diego, CA 92101

Nickel Brewing
1485 Hollow Glen Rd, Julian, CA 92036

Helm's
5640 Kearny Mesa Rd, San Diego, CA 92111

Chuck Alek 
3139 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

San Diego Brewing Co
10450 Friars Rd, San Diego, CA 92120

Culture
4845 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107

Rough Draft
8830 Rehco Rd D, San Diego, CA 92121

2Kids
8680 Miralani Dr #123, San Diego, CA 92126

Duckfoot
8920 Kenamar Dr #210, San Diego, CA 92121

Amplified
9030 Kenamar Dr #309, San Diego, CA 92121

Article from Edible San Diego at http://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/food-thought/local-brewers-raise-bar-sustainability
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