The Green Brewhaha: Sustainability at Bell’s Brewery

What’s your name and the name of your brewery?

Evan Meffert, Sustainability Specialist at Bell’s Brewery.

How long have you been in the business?

I have been with Bell’s for 3 years. In 2010 the brewery celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Where are you located?

We are a Michigan company with our pub, the Eccentric Café, in Kalamazoo and office and production facilities in nearby Galesburg.

What volume of beer do you produce and where do you distribute?

In 2010, we sold over 152,000 barrels of beer. We distribute in 18 states: Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and Arizona as well as Puerto Rico and District of Columbia.

What are your plans for growth, if any?

We are currently wrapping up a major renovation to the Eccentric Café. This expansion includes a new indoor performance hall and bar. When completed, we will have a total of 40 taps between two bars. We also just awarded the contract for our new 200 barrel brewhouse to GEA-Huppmann. This expansion to our production site is projected at $17 million and will include the brewhouse upgrade, employee care facilities, new utilities, and some specialty fermentation capacity. We are expecting to break ground in April 2011 and be brewing on the new system in January 2012.

What makes your brewery sustainable?

We don’t call ourselves a sustainable brewery because we deplete more resources than we provide. We are, however, conscious of our impact, especially in regards to how the mishandling of resources ultimately affects the craft quality of our beer. Without abundant natural resources, we would not be able to find high quality raw materials. Without an excited and engaged community, it would be hard to produce creative and consistent beer. And without the capital to back it up, we would not be able to grow our business in-line with demand for product. This is the triple bottom line: if we act based on intentions that advocate for healthy communities, environments, and finances, we will experience long-term success.

The following is a list of a few specific actions we have taken towards our sustainability goals:

  • We installed a 8000 sq. ft. greenroof over our conditioning warehouse in 2008
  • We installed instrumentation on our compressed air, steam, and electric service to start gathering data on system quality and efficiency
  • We installed a new energy efficient lighting system in production facility with occupancy and daylight controls
  • Light tubes in our facilities provide natural light and reduce the energy intensity on lighting systems via daylight harvesting controls
  • Outside air makeup in our cold storage warehouse enables us to turn off our refrigeration system in the winter
  • Employee wellness benefit offers personalized programs for employees towards achieving health and wellness goals
  • Compostable cups for serving beer at the Eccentric Café are collected and composted at a local industrial composting site
  • We compost all food waste from the Eccentric Café. In 2010 we donated the final compost to the Fair Food Matters’ Growing Matters Garden, a local food advocacy group out of Kalamazoo.

What’s your biggest sustainability challenge?

Our biggest sustainability challenge is also the biggest challenge to any growing organization: lack of communication and resistance to change.

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

  • Another outside air makeup system for our walk-in and draft coolers at our Kalamazoo facility
  • More metering for our utility distribution systems, particularly on the water side
  • Developing ways to engage those who are both interested and involved in our sustainability efforts
  • Utility systems overhaul for the new production expansion designed with energy and water efficiency in mind
  • Forget finances- what’s your brewery pipe dream?

    Although finances would help, they would not be a silver bullet in pursuing our brewery vision. Bell’s works to produce a product that people connect with. We do this with an artist’s aesthetic paired with attention to rigorous craft quality; inspired brewing. In any modern western society, the consumers’ buying power rivals the citizens’ voting power. We love being part of a culture that practices conscious consumerism and our pipe dream is that our industry can help bring this concept to a larger consumer base with quality products and interesting narratives.

    What is the one thing you want Triple Pundit readers to know about your brewery?

    We are really inspired about good beer and are fully aware of how responsible business practice can influence our product.

    What’s your favorite brew?

    Two-Hearted Ale, hands down. It’s a balanced, flavorful IPA that doesn’t completely obliterate your palette.

    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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