Brewing Beer, Sustainably


Kona Brewing Company takes caring for the environment to a different level, aware of the earth's resources in everything it does.

Fresh, local, island-brewed beers came to Hawaii’s Big Island in 1995 when Kona Brewing Company introduced Pacific Golden Ale (now Big Wave Golden Ale) and Fire Rock Pale Ale.

But these two — and the 12 to 16 other styles of beer that the brewery produces — aren’t just beers. They’re beers that are prepared in the most sustainable way possible, in a building made from many recycled parts, by employees and management who have an eye on sustainability every step of the way.

The company now produces more than 165,000 barrels of beer and has two pub/restaurants in Hawaii. It also produces much of its beer in four breweries on the mainland in order to protect the environment and keep costs down.

Mattson Davis, president and CEO of Kona Brewing Company, speaks to RMGT:

Kona Brewing started out with a dedication to sustainability. What are the beliefs and thoughts that encourage this dedication?

My mom did this in the 1980s before it was cool — she was into precycling and made us think about whether we needed to buy things. My partner, Cameron Healy, grew up in Oregon and his mindset was yoga and healthy; he was a Sikh for 20 years.

So it was upbringing coupled with living on an island and realizing your choices affect everything and your resources are limited. As a leader we have an obligation to pay forward and understanding how our waste can be somebody else’s gold. It’s a constant, constant process.

What are some of the processes you use in your brewery that were developed with an eye towards sustainability?

Our yeast goes to a farm, and we give our spent grain to a cattle rancher; we also use some of the spent grain in our pubs’ pizza dough and breads.

We harvest enough heat off the brewing process and in our restaurant to preheat the water for our hot water needs — like in the brewing and kitchen.

We also have a whiskey barrel that collects more than 90 gallons of condensation per day from our air conditioning systems. That water is then used for landscaping irrigation.

Two years ago we found out we could reduce the weight of our bottles by 11 percent and make them stronger. That slightly changed the shape of our bottles, which meant we could also put more in our shipping containers and reduce our carbon footprint. The estimated savings of that is 3,375 tons of CO2 emitted per year, which is the same as the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by a car traveling eight million miles.


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