Beer that reflects environmental concerns and social awareness is gaining traction.
Sustainable initiatives have applicability for breweries as well as for their restaurant customers. “Restaurants are trying to connect people better with their food. And people are, in general, understanding more where their food comes from,” says Cheri Chastain, sustainability manager at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. “Restaurants are also starting to ask a little more about the beverages that they’re serving and how they’re made.”
In March, Sierra Nevada opened the restaurant and taproom operations at its new East Coast production facility in Mills River, North Carolina. The decision to open a major point of production on the opposite side of the country from its home base in Chico, California, was itself, Chastain explains, “largely driven from a sustainability perspective.” The company’s transportation impact when serving large markets like Florida and New York is being reduced immensely by the addition of this production facility. Additionally, Sierra Nevada will be applying for LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification, the benchmark for adhering to green building practices, for the new facility.
Sierra Nevada is at the forefront of a growing number of breweries that are trying to address sustainable practices, a transition that seems—on the surface, at least—to be pretty straightforward. “The idea and concept of sustainability is to sustain something,” Chastain says. “Can you continue to do what you’re doing?” And of course, to do so without compromising the environment or wellbeing of the world in which the business operates. After 20-plus years of running and refining the brewpub operations in Chico, the company has learned a great deal about what it takes to do things efficiently, both at the brewery and the restaurant.
Save Resources, Save Money
“We approach sustainability from an operations perspective,” Chastain says. While a superficial understanding of sustainability tends to focus heavily on environmental concerns, it entails more than that. It’s also about making smart financial decisions as well as considering the societal impacts: keeping employees happy and healthy, engaging with communities, and being aware of how these relationships interact.
Sierra Nevada and other similar companies have learned a lot about reducing waste and identifying inefficient uses of key resources. “A lot of it really comes down to purchasing,” Chastain says, referring to the initial major adjustments made at the Chico brewpub. “Purchasing plays a huge role in waste generation, in water use, in all of it.”