OCB Conference, Part 3: The Breakout Sessions

The next part of the OCB Conference featured three timeslots where each offered a choice of several topics.

Session 3:

  1. Sustainable Solutions for the Craft Brewing Industry
  2. How to start to do business with the LCBO
  3. Managing Employee Health and Saftey
  4. Current updates in kegs and kegging systems

I have always had an interest in how the brewing industry, with its high water and energy usage, can lower its ecological footprint — my faux business plan in first-year Brewmaster featured a “green” brewery — so I picked topic #1. The panel consisted of Sybil Taylor of Steam Whistle, Steve Beauchesne of Beau’s, Steve Abrams of Mill St. and was moderated by Anthony Santilli of Bullfrog Power. The session covered how these breweries have approached the issues of water, energy, waste, purchasing, and social enterprise.


Sybil Taylor pointed out that Europe, which has markedly fewer sources of fresh water than Canada, designs its brewing equipment to save water. Currently Steam Whistle uses a European vapor condensation system that not only saves 2.5 million litres of water annually, but also cuts down on the amount of energy needed to heat water. The annual savings work out to be about $47,000 for heat + $20,000 for water + $11,000 for lower waste water charges from the city = $75,000 in savings.

Mill St. recycles CIP (clean in place) water. This lowers their water usage, effluent discharge and caustic usage, and the water can be reused in other functions


When Beau’s had an energy audit done, it showed that their cooler and air compressor were wasting a lot of energy, and that they could accomplish major savings by just doing the “boring stuff”: closing the cooler door (!), replacing the compressor, replacing old lights with more efficent modern fixtures, and adding weatherstripping to the building. This “boring stuff” resulted in an incredible 50% savings in energy consumption.

Mill St. installed a free air system — on winter days, the system draws cold air from outside to cool the cooler, rather than running a compressor.

Steam Whistle switched their trucks to bio-diesel, switched to green energy from Bullfrog Power (whose electricity is generated from 60% hydroelectricity and 40% wind), and uses an Enwave “deep lake cooling” system (cold water drawn from deeper depths of Lake Ontario) to cool their building in the summer.


Mill St. was using biodegradable pallet wrap, but had to discontinue because they couldn’t source enough of it.

After a waste audit showed that too much organic and recyclable waste was ending up in the landfill waste, Steam Whistle educated its employees about waste sorting. It also sells recyclables such as spent grain. (Most breweries give it away to farmers.) Sybil Taylor believes growth will bring about new opportunities for waste diversion.

Of course, both Steam Whistle and Mill St. are located in major Canadian metropolises, where the infrastructuire for waste diversion is already in place. But Beau’s is in tiny Vankleek Hill, about an hour east of Ottawa. The brewery struggles to divert waste from landfill since there are no recycling or composting services — they have had to search out recycling companies who can take their cardboard, glass, etc.


Mill St., whose “rent beer” is its Organic Lager, used to have to buy certified organic barley and ship it to an American maltster. Now they are able to get certified organic grain from a Saskatchewan source. They also use phosphorus-free cleaners.

Beau’s has the same issue — except ALL their beers are certified organic. Requiring certified organic products can actually increase Beau’s ecological footprint: if they know of a local product that is grown organically but is not certified as such, and they also know of a foreign source of the same product that is organically certified, then they must order the foreign product. To avoid this, Beau’s encourages local farmers to switch to organic farming and then become certified. They offer a premium for locally produced certified products, and help farmers achieve certification. For instance, when they were sourcing bog myrtle to add to a beer, they found a local source that was not certified, and a European source that was. Rather than having the bog myrtle shipped all the way from Europe, they helped the local supplier to become certified organic.

Steam Whistle uses GMO-free malt. In addition, they ensure that their t-shirts are made sweatshop-free in Canada of organic cotton. In their office, their printers are set to a default of two-sided printing. All computers and printers are set to auto-shut off after a few minutes. And they were so successful at switching completely to electronic reports and invoicing that their auditors told them they had to generate SOME paperwork in order to produce a traceable paper trail.

Social Enterprise:

Steam Whistle uses employee engagement to generate more ideas. All staff were invited to join an environmental committee, and the first meeting generated a hundred ideas. For example, how long should delivery trucks idle, or what is the best recycled paper? The committee followed up each of these by researching solutions, communicating their ideas and training the other staff. Environmental responsibility is now a part of every job description at Steam Whistle.

Mill St. has made partnerships, such as Earth Day Canada, believing that the beer industry has the power to leverage change because of the social acceptance of beer.

Bea’s believes that “beer tastes better when you feel good about drinking it. They have just become the first Canadian brewery to become a certified “Benefit Corporation” (or “B-Corp”): a for-profit company that considers benefit to community and the environment in business decision-making processes, instead of simply maximizing profit for shareholders. This means, in part, continuing with the types of partnerships with local programs that deal with local concerns. For instance, Beau’s has an on-line order and delivery service in the Ottawa area that uses as its drivers homeless youth paired with a social worker.

All of the ideas presented in this session would not only be good for the environment and local community, but would also be highly marketable. My only regret was that a lot of other attendees were in other sessions. Everyone — brewers, marketing people, suppliers — should have had a chance to hear the the ideas and feel the positive karma from this panel.


Next: How to organize a Beer Week; and how to choose your beer glassware.

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