Australians love beer. But would you believe they’re drinking less than ever before? While the 2017 Australian Craft Beer Survey found that that the overall consumption of beer is in decline, Australians are flocking to craft beers – it’s the only segment in the Australian beer market to see growth.
And what’s awesome about that, is that small, craft brewers are much more likely to adopt meaningful and measurable sustainability and socially responsible policies than their bigger multi-national counterparts.
Given that Australians spend an average of $55 a week on beer, where that beer comes from has a pretty big cumulative impact and Australia’s craft breweries are leading the charge when it comes to progressive policies.
I went on a beer-soaked mission to find out who they are and what they’re up to.
When a brewery brands its beers with progressive social and environmental messages, right from the get-go, you know they’re out to do things differently.
Sparkke Brewer’s apple cider focuses on sexual consent (with the message ‘consent can’t come after you do’) and their crazy delish alcoholic ginger beer supports asylum seekers with ‘boundless plains to share’ emblazoned on the can.
The pilsner makes a mockery of Australia Day demanding we ‘change the date’ and the hard lemonade asks for gender equality pronouncing ‘nipples are nipples’.
With one of Australia’s only female head brewers under 30 (Agi Gajic) this bunch of social activists is making huge waves in the Australian brewing scene – not only for the awesome products they’re creating, but also for the progressive work they’re doing raising both funds and awareness around some of the country’s biggest social and environmental challenges.
Stone and Wood
This northern NSW brewer actively works to reduce its footprint not only by reducing, reusing and recycling but also through exploring innovations in brewing.
Their beer is pretty darn good too.
Inside Stone and Wood breweries, there’s a focus on reducing water and energy consumption and outside there’s a focus on working collectively with local communities.
In 2017 the brewery took out the Premier’s Award for Environmental Excellence at the Green Globe Awards and they were also awarded the state’s first rebate for a baler – basically a machine that helps bale waste, reducing both the volume of waste going to landfill as well as the carbon emissions from transporting it there.
However, they’re not sending their waste to landfill. They’re sending it to a plastics recycler on the Gold Coast which means some 97% of the brewery’s waste is now being diverted from landfill into other products.
There’s probably not another brewery in Australia so close to being a zero waste operation. Nice work Stone and Wood.
Mountain Goat Brewery
Mountain Goat Brewery was at the forefront of Australia’s now-vibrant craft beer scene and with ten years under their belt they’ve been able to innovate in some pretty cool ways.
Their warehouse has 10m high ceilings and is north facing, lending itself to passive heating and lighting in winter. Mountain Goat’s beers are naturally brewed and their Indian Pale Ale was Australia’s first certified organic beer and their biggest selling product – Steam Ale – also certified organic.
They consciously brew in cans and have done since 2013 and use all recycled materials for boxes, coasters, letterheads and business cards.
Mountain Goat’s spent grain is sent to a local farmer whose cows love eating the by-product and all waste water from the brewery is tested and then neutralised before hitting the sewer system and they engage an independent contractor to monitor the system for pollutants.
The entire staff is on the sustainability act too.
With the introduction of a ride to work initiative, the brewery’s staff are paid a bonus at the end of the year based on the number of times they cycled, walked or caught public transport to work. Every week the team clocks up 300km commuting to work sustainably. No wonder the beer tastes so good, eh?
Rocky Ridge Brewing
This little outfit grows everything they brew. They’re totally off-grid and sustainable as they make beer on a farm they’ve had in the family for five generations.
Rocky Ridge Brewing have kept their core beers to a minimum, focusing on a huge variety of season and limited release beers which are all packaged in cans.
Based on the Gold Coast, this family-owned, Indigenous and non-alcoholic brewer has developed the perfectly social drink – one you can imbibe at any time of the day.
As well as raising cultural awareness and infusing bushtucker into their range of beers, Sobah is promoting Aboriginal arts and languages and ethically sourcing ingredients and knowledge.
Sobah’s non-alcoholic beers come with all the punch of a normal beer but without the booze. It’s already being stocked at a bunch of outlets across five Australian states with a bunch of restaurants and cafes jumping on the booze-free bandwagon.
It’s an excellent drop, too.