The Green Brewhaha: Sustainability at Eel River Brewing Company

What’s your name and the name of your brewery?
Rachael Weseloh, River Brewing Company

How long have you been in the business?
Began brewing beer in 1995 and became America’s first certified organic brewery in the U.S. in 1999

Where are you located?
We started in Fortuna, CA and moved a few miles away to an empty lumber mill in Scotia, CA in 2007. Our brewpub is still at the Fortuna location. We distribute in 25 states across the country and British Columbia, Canada.

What are your plans for growth, if any?
We grew by more than 40% last year and we’re up another 25% so far this year. We’d like to have a 30% a year steady growth. This allows us to spread the message of sustainability and organics without overloading our capacity.

What makes your brewery sustainable?
Sustainability is what Eel River Brewing Company is all about – not only are all of our beers organic, but we also follow sustainable practices.

  • Our brewery in Scotia, CA is located in what used to be a redwood mill and runs 100% on bio-mass renewable energy.
  • We buy our ingredients and materials as locally as possible to reduce the pollution and adverse effects on the environment that is created by shipping over long distances.
  • Most of our ingredients come from the Pacific Northwest and over 95% of our malt comes just a couple hundred miles north from us in Oregon.
  • Our tap handles are made from reclaimed wood and our packaging is made with recycled materials.
  • Spent grain from the brewing process is used to feed local, organic cattle that are in turn sold as organic beef at our brewpub in Fortuna, CA. It also feeds local, organic dairy cows. This reduces waste by providing a use for what would otherwise be thrown away. By keeping the spent grain local, travel is reduced considerably (our grain is shipped only a matter of miles) and we’re able to create a closed loop where both Eel River Brewing Company and our community benefit.
  • On site at our brewery, we have a waste water pre-treatment system that filters out organic solids from the brewing process and all waste water is buffered to a neutral pH. This eases the strain that would otherwise be put on the water treatment center in town.

  • Any new sustainability projects in the pipeline that have you excited?

    We’re excited for Earth Day! We have already begun planning to brew a specialty beer to celebrate our commitment to sustainability and to encourage others to take the small steps needed to reach a higher level of sustainability. Part of the proceeds from the beer will go to a local non-profit that we hope to work together with to raise awareness about how easy it is to become sustainable.

    Forget finances- what’s your brewery pipe dream?
    If money weren’t an issue, we would love to be even more sustainable. We would want to produce our own energy through solar and wind. It would also be pretty cool to be able to grow our own ingredients.

    What is the one thing you want Triple Pundit readers to know about your brewery?
    A lot of people look at us as an organic, sustainable brewery and while this is true, we also want people to know that we make great beer! We have received over 300 awards, recognitions and medals to date.

    What’s your favorite brew?
    Triple Exultation, an English style Old Ale, is my favorite. It’s delicious and can be aged – although I have a hard time holding on to it for too long

    Jen Boynton

    Jen Boynton is editor in chief of TriplePundit and editorial director at 3BL Media. With over 6 million annual readers, TriplePundit is the leading publication on sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line. Prior to TriplePundit, Jen received an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. In her work with TriplePundit she's helped clients from SAP to PwC to Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA -- court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

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