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The Art and Sustainability of Craft Beers

This article is part of our coverage of Net Impact 2012. To follow along, visit this page.

By Erica Schlaikjer

At the Net Impact conference in Baltimore, craft brewmakers discussed how their industry is taking leadership on sustainability and community development, in a panel discussion on Cases and Beer: The Sustainability-Focused, Community-Involved Brewery.

One of the ways they've been able to do this is through nurturing the local art and media scene.

Offbeat and benevolent

The Delaware brewing company Dogfish Head touts a Beer & Benevolence program to support local nonprofit organizations through partnerships, donations and other creative charity events. Its commitment to the community is demonstrated through its involvement with local artists.

The company has several in-house artists, including the founder and president, Sam Calagione. He is responsible for much of the quirky artwork on the company's labels and advertisements. Many of Dogfish Head's labels also feature original work by artists like Jon LangfordTara McPherson and Marq Spusta, reinforcing the company tagline: "off-centered beer for off-centered people."

In an interview with PsPrint, Calgione said, "We didn’t want to hire outside marketing and advertising. We wanted to do it ourselves. I designed the logo and did an unintentional, intentionally imperfect shield.”

This DIY attitude extends to all aspects of the company's branding. For example, Dogfish Head sponsors the Off-Centered Film Fest, to showcase up-and-coming filmmakers. "Don't have high-end gear? Film it on your phone," the festival website says. "Can't write good dialogue? Shoot it live and call it gritty."

It's no surprise, either, that the entrance to the company's Milton, Del. brewery features the zany Steampunk Tree House, a sculpture built in part from recycled and reclaimed materials by the Five Ton Crane art collective. According to lead artist Sean Orlando, "the Steampunk Tree House was made to explore the relationship between our rapidly changing natural world and the persistent human drive to connect with it and one another."

Alternatively powered

The Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Co. includes environmental stewardship as one of its core values and beliefs. To market its "alternatively empowered" sustainable business story, the company has developed several creative events and initiatives, combining film, social media and bicycling.

A twist on the traditional drive-in cinema, New Belgium's Bike-In Cinema encourages film-goers to ditch their cars for bicycles, with proceeds from the evening's entertainment going towards local nonprofit organizations.

The company also created Clips of Faith, an 18-city touring show that pairs beer tastings with screenings of short films produced by fans. All proceeds from the beer sales benefit a local nonprofit.

Finally, there's Team Wonderbike, an online campaign asking people to take a pledge to bike more and drive less, all in the name of the environment.

And just in time for the holidays, to bring out everyone's inner artist: The company has a customizable online card creator. For every card designed, the company donates $1 to one of several causes, including water stewardship, sensible transportation and bike advocacy, sustainable agriculture, and climate change prevention and adaptation.

Erica Schlaikjer, based in Washington, D.C., is the founder of Benevolent Media, a media and events company dedicated to celebrating storytelling and design for good. You can follow Erica and ask her questions on Twitter: @eschlaik and @benevolentmedia.

Image courtesy New Belgium Brewing Co.

3p Contributor

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