Cowbell to make environmental history with brewery
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company will be North America’s first carbon-neutral brewery and Vice-President Grant Sparling says that was one of the company’s earliest goals.
Sparling insists that pledge isn’t just words – that the brewery will include monitors in the building, accessible to all who visit, that measure the company’s energy and water usage and compare it to industry standards.
“We knew we wanted to be as transparent as possible,” Sparling said in an interview with The Citizen. He added that Cowbell needs to be accountable for its environmental practices not just to patrons, but to themselves as well.
The company, he said, is in a unique position where it can build its vision from the ground up and implement good environmental practices from day one.
“This way we can really imbed sustainability in the DNA of this business,” Sparling said.
The concept began in the early stages of the Cowbell project, Sparling said. With the brewery set to be located on the site of a former working farm, Sparling said the Cowbell team was inspired by farmers as stewards of the land and the environment and the team knew they needed to keep that promise as well if they were going to run their business on that land.
The process of carbon-neutrality really begins with the planting of 12,000 native trees as part of a 2010 29-acre reforestation project in conjunction with the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority on site on the farm’s grounds.
While the reforestation project marked the beginning of the initiative, it has been two further partnerships with local architects Allan Avis Architects and Golder and Associates of London, as well as the use of brewing equipment from Newlands Systems Inc. of British Columbia that have advanced the plan even further.
Sparling said that the process of brewing beer uses a massive amount of water, which was a concern for those behind Cowbell. In partnering with Newlands Systems, Cowbell has been able to cut its water consumption to under half of the industry standard, which is a major step in the right direction for the local company, Sparling says.
The equipment will drastically reduce Cowbell’s energy and water consumption, Sparling says, which is a very exciting prospect for a company with a mandate to be environmentally and socially responsible.
The Newlands Systems equipment will result in electrical components equipped with variable frequency drives to reduce unnecessary electrical draw, internal rotating jets that reduce water consumption as they clean and a low-energy brew kettle boiling design that reduces primary energy by 50 per cent and evaporation of water by 80 per cent. It also allows for the remaining vapour to be condensed and used to generate hot water.
“Cowbell Brewing Company’s targetted water-to-beer consumption ratio is 4:1 – much lower than the relative industry standard of 10:1. The brewery will be a closed-loop facility with an on-site deep well supplying 100 per cent of the brewing water,” a Cowbell press release states. “The design also features the company’s own effluent management system, meaning there will be no impact on municipal sanitary services infrastructure.”
The building design also lends itself heavily to efficiencies, Sparling says, another positive from being able to construct the building new.
Thanks to the company working with Jason Morgan of Allan Avis Architects, the building is designed for maximum efficiency, Sparling says, which comes from Morgan’s personal experiences.
Morgan, Sparling says, lives what he preaches, living off the grid not to grab headlines, but for a motivation to have as little of an impact on the environment as possible.
“[Morgan] lives it every day and he doesn’t care about the headlines or the attention,” Sparling said. “He just used tried and true methods of sustainability.”
The “grand old barn” design of the building utilizes lofty interior spaces and rooftop cupolas equipped with remote control windows as an effective and traditional means of ventilation. As well, the building’s orientation is designed to reduce the energy required for heating and cooling.
“The first step in minimizing the environmental impact of the main brewery and restaurant building is reducing energy consumption using smart building enclosure systems, equipment, lighting, dramatically reducing water consumption in the brewing process and providing systems that are derived from the building’s conceptual inspiration,” Morgan said.
Cowbell plans to chart its progress in the building’s lobby once it’s constructed. Sparling says the building will be equipped with publicly-accessible monitors on display that will show both real-time and historical data on the company’s water and energy consumption, while comparing it to industry standard and historical energy and water consumption, all in the name of being transparent to its customers and delivering on the company’s promise of carbon-neutrality.
In order to ensure that the company is doing what it’s set out to do, Cowbell will employ Golder Associates of London, a global leader in sustainable development, which will complete a detailed analysis in order to validate, certify and achieve carbon-neutral accreditation.
And while many of these practices are exciting for Cowbell, being on the cutting edge of an environmentally-friendly way of brewing beer, once the methods are put into practice, Sparling says Cowbell will be looking to share their methods with other breweries looking to become more efficient.
Sparling says it is truly a “rising tide floats all boats” situation where he feels everybody wins if energy and water consumption are reduced.
As far as being a pioneer in the world of carbon-neutral brewing, Sparling says he is excited and blessed to have the opportunity, but points to members of his team as the reason the company will be able to achieve its lofty environmental goals.
He admits he was a little surprised to find out that Cowbell would be the first brewery to achieve this standard, but says it’s wonderful to be the first to do such an admirable thing.
For more information on Cowbell Brewing Company, visit its website at cowbellbrewing.com.