If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you may remember that we did a feature on making your beer drinking a little more eco-friendly back in January. In that blog, we highlighted some of the efforts local breweries are making to minimize their environmental footprint, focusing on the work being done by our friends at Little Harpeth Brewing. This past Wednesday, Little Harpeth invited us to their brewery to take a little tour and chat more in depth about their sustainability mission as a part of our Engage Green workshop series with Urban Green Lab. We learned a ton, and wanted to showcase some of that new-found knowledge for you here if you weren’t able to make it to the workshop!
Little Harpeth’s sustainability mission began long before Michael Kwas, Founder, and Steve Scoville, Head Brewer, started producing beer in their current facility at 30 Oldham Street, a nondescript warehouse on the bank of the Cumberland in East Nashville. To prep their building for brewing, the Little Harpeth team had to completely gut the existing space and rebuild it to suit their needs, creating the potential for a lot of demolition debris. Kwas jokes that they’re not sure if they did this because they’re cheap or because they care about the environment, but they managed to salvage roughly 80% of their demolition debris for reuse in the construction of their new space, saving or recycling everything from electrical wire and wooden studs to doors frames and hardware. To outfit their new space, they utilized local resources like Habitat ReStore and Metro Nashville E-Bid, and were able to purchase the paneling for their walk-in cooler from a nearby scrap yard, making reuse a cornerstone of their build-out mission.
Not only was the construction of Little Harpeth’s space a highly-sustainable endeavor, but they also made it a point to show us how they take the environment into consideration throughout their brewing process as well. They source much of the corn used in their brewing process from mills in Middle Tennessee and North Georgia, minimizing the environmental impact of their ingredient sourcing when compared to other breweries that get their supplies from farmers in the Midwest and West. They also source 80% of their malt from Rahr Malting, who produces malt without the use of electricity. Additionally, Little Harpeth utilizes a high-efficiency boiler and only boils their wort for 15 minutes, allowing for a 60% reduction in energy use during the boiling process when compared to their peer breweries.
Finally, the whole beer-making process wouldn’t be sustainable without thinking about how the end product is distributed and consumed. Little Harpeth utilizes donated used pallets to ship their kegs around Middle Tennessee, and they tie these kegs down with reusable ratchet ties, rather than the traditional heavy-duty plastic wrap, eliminating the waste that is often generated through keg distribution. The team is also looking into canning their beer in coming months. Why canning, you may ask? Aluminum is lighter than glass to distribute and also takes up less room, allowing canned beer to be shipped in a more environmentally-friendly manner than glass bottles (more beer per delivery truck). Additionally, recycling rates are much higher for aluminum than for glass in Nashville because Metro Nashville only accepts glass at specific drop-off facilities and not in their curbside pickup program, making the immediate environmental benefit to Nashville clear.
If you want to learn even more about Little Harpeth’s sustainability initiatives, brewing process, and beer varieties, including the work they’re doing to support the Middle Tennessee honey bee population, check out their website!
To round out our learning experience, Little Harpeth generously offered everyone some beer samples in return for donations to the Harpeth River Watershed Association, a local non-profit focused on preserving and protecting the Harpeth River and its tributaries. We may be a little biased in saying this, but the beer tastes that much better when you know it’s brewed with the environment in mind. Cheers to Little Harpeth and all the other craft breweries that are making an effort to brew responsibly, and here’s to more breweries big and small making greater efforts towards increased sustainability in the years to come – a win for both beer drinkers and Mother Nature alike!
– Matt (Team Green’s Events Coordinator)