A couple weeks ago, I got back from an incredible trip to Ireland and Germany with one of my closest friends. We saw a lot, ate a lot, and drank… you know. Amongst all the beautiful experiences, there was one that I would consider especially powerful. That was our visit to Canvas Brewery in County Tipperary, Ireland. Despite being only a year old, they are making incredible strides in the realm of sustainability.
This visit made me realize that the small/medium sized farmhouse brewery operation is most likely the most environmentally sustainable model for a brewery. Not to mention, farms are high up on the list of best places to have a cold one.
The definition of a farmhouse brewery is widely interpreted. Personally, I’m a fan of the one Marika Josephson (of Scratch Brewing) outlines in her book Keeping the “Farm” in “Farmhouse Beer.” She lists 5 guiding principles for farmhouse breweries
They are the following:
- A farmhouse brewery grows a significant amount of plants for its beer on site or on land that is managed by farmers who work for the brewery.
- A farmhouse brewery strives to make beer with plants that are grown and processed within the bounds of the brewery’s ecological growing region.
- A farmhouse brewery utilizes its unique microflora for fermentation and relies minimally on special lab processing to store, grow up, or otherwise control strains of yeast or bacteria.
- A farmhouse brewery embraces the natural water profile it finds on site and minimally changed it to suit its brewing needs.
- A farmhouse brewery operates entirely within the bounds of its materials and means.
Not a bad framework to work with, right? Marika’s standards are perfect for evaluating a farmhouse brewery’s sustainability. At the core of these is the idea that the brewery should source all ingredients on site/nearly and produce all beer on site. The sustainability ramifications of this are plentiful.
For one, sourcing locally reduces the carbon impact of the supply chain. If a brewery buys German malt, it has to be shipped from German to the brewery. The carbon impact of transporting that malt (most likely across the globe) has the potential to be very high. If a brewery sources its malt on site, there is little to no carbon impact in transporting it to the brew house.
In my next post, I’ll take it back to Canvas Brewery, outline its sustainability projects and analysis it’s farmhouse status through the lens that Marika laid out. Part 2 coming soon.