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Thursday, April 1, 2021 15 mins read
Thursday, April 1, 2021 15 mins read
Sustainable Distilleries: The Green Side of Craft
Celebrate Earth Day, learn a little bit about the distilling practices of our environmentally friendly distilleries.
These days, responsible businesses value sustainable practices. They see and understand how each of their business decisions have a crucial impact on our ability to preserve our environment.
Around the world, and across industries, all sorts of companies find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Businesses big and small are doing what they can to work towards cleaner air, build healthier communities, and conserve natural resources.
The craft spirits community is no different in their sustainability efforts.
But the word “sustainability” casts a pretty large net. There is no catch-all for sustainability. Rather, there are a number of different sustainable distilling practices a distillery could employ to comfortably call themselves a sustainable distillery.
Using only locally-sourced ingredients, recapturing water used in the process, or sending stillage to local farms to use as cattle feed. Being an environmentally friendly distillery can take many different shapes. Each of which play a pivotal role in making our world a greener place.
At Spirit Hub, we’re proud to work with more than 25 independent distilleries who are actively taking these steps. No matter which sustainable path they’re taking.
Grand Traverse Distillery
Back when Kent Rabish founded Grand Traverse Distillery, he had a very specific goal. “My goal when I started the distillery in 2005 was to use local agriculture, and be as local as possible with the ingredients we need.”
“100% of our raw grain comes from the Send Brothers Farms, located about ten milkes from our production facility,” Kent explains about Grand Traverse’s locally sourced ingredients. “We also purchase all our malted barley and malted rye from Great Lakes Malting, located in our home town of Traverse City.”
Kent explains that finding a good grain source makes the distilling process a bit harder, because they then have to find a way to use the spent grains. But they found a sensible solution.
“When we are done distilling, the spent grain is drained of liquid and put into large containers for local farmers to pick up and feed their cattle. Moomers Ice Cream, and Gallagher’s Farms are two local farms that pick up grain to feed their cattle. And the cattle manure then goes back out into the fields for fertilizer.”
The efforts don’t stop there. Kent continues, “We installed a closed water system about six years ago that recirculates water for operating our two stills. This eliminated us dumping large amounts of water down the drain every day.”
Between the water and grain cycle, keeping that closed circle is crucial. “Conserving resources is a key factor for Grand Traverse Distillery,” Kent tells us. “We do our best to reduce our footprint on the environment.”
Appalachian Gap Distillery
Headquartered in Middlebury, Vermont, Appalachian Gap Distillery doesn’t have to look far for inspiration to be a sustainable distillery. Surrounded by the lush Vermont woodlands, they stay committed to two things: producing unforgettable craft spirits, and reducing their carbon footprint in the process.
“We source as much as we can from within 50 miles of the distillery,” Appalachian Gap Founder and Chief Distiller, Lars Hubbard tells us.
He continues, saying that locally sourcing ingredients “aligns with our commitment to sustainability, and it also expresses, in some small ways, the terroir of our location.”
Appalachian Gap Distillery’s efforts for sustainability don’t end there. Utilizing a solar array, all of the electricity used by the environmentally friendly distillery comes from this array. In actuality, the solar array produces too much electricity for Appalachian Gap. So, the excess electricity credits are given to their employees to use.
Additionally, all of Appalachian Gap’s liquid stillage and waste grains are donated to local farms to be used as feed for their cattle.
Working with the non-profit organization Climate Neutral, the Vermont distillery made an ambition announcement early in 2021. Appalachian Gap has pledged to be Climate Neutral Certified by the end of the year.
The distillery was already charging down the sustainability path. With the help of Climate Neutral’s rigorous standards, Appalachian Gap was able to meet their goal of being climate neutral by the beginning of April 2021. A feat that solidified them as the first certified climate neutral distillery in the United States.
Bozeman Spirits Distillery
One of the most crucial elements of the distilling process is the water. Bozeman Spirits Distillery uses some truly special water. As they like to say, their spirits go “from mountain top to bar top.” All without ever strapping on a pair of hiking boots.
Just outside of Bozeman, Montana is this Gallatin mountain range. It’s from those snow-capped peaks that Bozeman Spirits sources their water.
Other distilleries claim to have the very best water, using a variety of methods to obtain it. Pulling it from deep wells and limestone caverns, or piping water in from some other area. But Bozeman doesn’t do that. They don’t need to.
Located just east of the continental divide, the environmentally friendly distillery has a front-row seat to watch as the water melts off the peaks of the surrounding mountains and flows into the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. And Bozeman Spirits gets it first.
One mountain specifically, Mount Blackmore, provides Bozeman Spirits with their water. The snow-covered mountain’s snowmelt finds its way into the Hyalite, Sourdough, and Bozeman Creeks. All three of which filter into the local watershed.
Eventually, that crisp, crystal clear mountain water is used to make Bozeman’s vodka, gin, and whiskey. From the mountain top to your bar cart, Bozeman Spirits Distillery proudly gives you the opportunity to drink local.
Catoctin Creek Distilling Co.
“Spirits are an energy dependent business – Think of the energy it takes to boil liquids!” Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. Founder Scott Harris explains. “It is therefore important to use as little energy as possible in the production of our spirits, without ever compromising on quality.”
Like the other sustainable distilleries, Catoctin Creek’s efforts start with their grains. “We operate using organic practices,” Scott says with pride.
“Our grain and ingredients are all grown using organic methods, and we do not use artificial chemicals in the production of our products. This ensures that the grain is the cleanest possible, free of herbicide and pesticide residue, which would add off-flavors in the spirits.”
And when all is said and done, Catoctin Creek is a zero-waste production facility. “All of our waste is recycled into other products, such as cattle feed,” Scott
For Scott, employing sustainable practices was a no-brainer. “Apart from being good for the planet, it makes good business sense!”
Catoctin Creek is a solar-powered distillery. “Using a 44,000 kW solar array on our rooftop, which offsets about 80% of energy usage,” Scott explains. “We are hedging the costs of future energy price increases by providing our own. The system on our roof pays for itself in as short as 8 years, as a result.”
“And from that point on, most of our energy is free!”
Five & 20 Spirits
“From nearly 50 years of experience in the wine and agriculture industry, we know the importance of supporting the health of our local land and resources,” explains Mario Mazza, Vice President and General Manager of Five & 20 Spirits. “These values continued on through our distillery and brewery operations that grew out of our winery.”
For Five & 20, sustainable practices were always part of the plan. “From the outset, we planned to be a ‘grain-to-glass’ facility, working closely with nearby farmers to source the very best grains for our craft whiskeys and beers.”
Their locally-sourced ingredients also help to support and sustain the local community. As Mario puts it, “As a farm brewery and farm distillery, a certain amount of our percentage of our ingredients must come from the state of New York, so we ensure that our ingredients are not travelling very to get to us.”
But Mario recognizes that there’s more to being an environmentally friendly distillery than using locally-sourced grains. “The spirits industry notoriously utilizes a large amount of water and creates a lot of byproduct,” and Mario says taking care of this responsibly is crucial.
“Being able to responsibly and sustainably treat, manage, and utilize that byproduct is a key part of creating a sustainable business model that works in harmony with the economy, community and the environment.”
This duty to responsibly deal with distilling byproducts made Five & 20’s partnership with Timberfish Technologies feel like a “natural extension.”
“This partnership and project allows us to responsibly and sustainably manage our wastewater and byproduct from our distillery, supporting an onsite fish farm, and ending up with clean water that meets strict intermittent stream water quality standards,” Mario says speaking about the Timberfish partnership. “Additionally, seafood in the U.S. typically travels thousands of miles to reach consumers, but this fish farm could help provide local food – and local jobs!”
Five & 20 makes more than sustainable spirits. They’re working to help create an entire sustainable ecosystem in Westfield, New York.
Join The Growing Movement of Sustainable Distilleries
There’s a lot of different ways to operate an environmentally friendly distillery. But there’s only one reason to employ those distilling practices: to keep our earth healthy for the next generation.
Whether they’re recycling spent grains or using solar arrays to power their distillery, every little bit counts. From the distilleries, down to us, we’re all responsible for creating a greener earth.
So when you’re done with your favorite bottle of uncommon craft, don’t forget to toss that bottle in the recycling bin.