Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sustainable Practices and Darn Good Beer!!

We pulled into the Red Lodge Brewing parking lot late Friday afternoon. Lindsey, who had been kind enough to field our last minute request to do a show on Saturday, met us as we pulled in and greeted us warmly. With their permission, we parked the Airstream in their parking lot for the night and listened to the last happy patrons leave as we drifted off to sleep that night.

The next day, we did a little grocery shopping, and cleaned up the Airstream for the afternoon show. Although we were scheduled to start at 4pm, by 2 o’clock, people were asking if they could come in, so we went ahead and opened. From that point on until we closed at 8pm, there was a continuous stream of visitors. Some who had seen the sign in the brew pub, some who had gotten an email from Lindsey, and some who just caught a glimpse of the Airstream as they were passing by and had to stop. The people of Red Lodge are very friendly, and the show was a resounding success. Over the next few days as we hung out in Red Lodge to get some work done on the website, people would knock on the door and ask to see the Airstream as they had heard about it from a friend, gotten the email but couldn’t attend, or just saw the Airstream and were curious. Red Lodge is a great little town.

The reason for our visit to the Red Lodge Brewery, was their commitment to reducing their energy needs, and recycling not only their waste products, but some of their customers as well. The owner Sam has obviously invested considerable time and money to achieve this.

The first thing you notice when you pull up outside is the huge solar array. As we would find out later when Sam gave us the tour, these panels heat water that is then used for a number of purposes throughout the brewery.

The list of energy saving initiatives at the brewery is impressive. In addition to the solar array that provides warm water for the brewing process, and heats the taprooms radiant floor heating, they also operate their vehicles on bio-diesel made from the waste oil they are able to recover from their restaurant customers. This is a beautiful symbiotic relationship. They deliver the beer in the trucks that run on the bio-diesel they make from the oil they pick up when they deliver the beer! We also learned that the spent grains from the brewing process are given to a local rancher for use as feed, who then donated the barn wood from an old barn on his property that warmly decorates the taproom. Taking advantage of the cool, no, make that frigging cold Montana winters, they also keep their energy consumption for cooling the beer down by pumping cold air in from the outside. According to Sam, this cools the beer without additional energy on up to 160 days of the year.

Red Lodge Ales is a shining example of what a company can do to reduce its footprint. It is obvious that the investment the Sam has made here will take some time to pay off in dollars, but the payoff in karma is both instant and obvious.

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