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Your Beermonger: Celebrating Earth Day by Toasting to Sustainable Brewers

This sponsored column is written by Todd Himes, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for the email newsletter and receive exclusive discounts and offers. Order from Arrowine’s expanding online store for curbside pickup.

One thing you might not always think of when you finally get the chance to step back into our store here at Arrowine (it is coming soon, I promise!) is that we sell agricultural products. The milk for our cheeses comes from well cared for and respected grazing animals, and the wines we sell are made great by growing high-quality grapes in the vineyards — not in a lab where they can be manipulated and fussed with (highly technical terms).

With Earth Day having passed us this week, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at a number of the environmental initiatives our brewery friends are undertaking to have a positive impact on our world ecosystem.

Two somewhat newer things you might notice on a label or package these days are Certified B Corporations and 1% for the Planet. Some of the 1% for the Planet member breweries we stock are Maine Beer Company, Vasen Brewing and Bearded Iris Brewing. These companies not only make  financial donations and adhere to sustainable practices in the brewhouse, but they also volunteer their time to different environmental initiatives.

Certified B Corps undergo a certification process that looks at not only their environmental impact but also their social impact. We have beers on shelves from Certified B Corps Allagash Brewing and North Coast Brewing, but you’ll also see the B logo in our freezer from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and in the cheese case on Vermont Creamery products. Allagash also recently started up a recycling co-op for some of the waste products of the brewing process that require special processing. Maine Beer Company and Bissell Brothers, located in the immediate area, also joined in. This echoes a similar program that Bell’s Brewery announced earlier this year that will hopefully inspire more of these collaborations.

Many of our local breweries also make use of local ingredients in order to drive home their commitment to reducing environmental impact. If you’ve recently held a can or bottle of Port City Optimal Wit, you may have noticed that it’s brewed with 100% Virginia wheat grown in the Northern Neck. You’d be forgiven if you haven’t stared at the breakdown of estate-grown vs. regionally sourced malts on any of the bottles from Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery — the beers alone are worthy of all your attention — but if you’re going to geek out a little over that information then we are going to get along great.

One of my favorite locavore beers, though, has to be Salts from Black Narrows. This gose-inspired tart wheat ale harvests natural yeast from oyster shells and also combines a portion of oyster liquor into the brew. The results are not only bright, briny and refreshing, but it also changes throughout the seasons to truly reflect the terroir of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Another essential input to the brewing process that doesn’t even end up in the beer is energy. In cities such as D.C., it can be difficult to grow your own ingredients for your beers — but that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own resources. Atlas Brewing’s cans proudly state that they are “Solar Powered Beer,” and if you ever visit their Ivy City taproom, you can see a display on the wall that shows what power is being harvested from the sun, what is being used by the brewery and what is going back to the grid. Their uptown neighbors Right Proper’s Brookland production facility reduced its energy use by installing LED lights and offset half its energy consumption with a solar canopy out front and an array of panels on the roof. In Vermont, Hermit Thrush Brewery uses wood pellets to power its brewhouse created from sawdust from the local timber industry that would otherwise be considered waste.

Port City’s Optimal Wit in their “Beer Grown Here” branded glasses

I’ve got a collection on the Arrowine online store of all the products covered here. Apologies to anyone I may have missed, but thank you for doing your part as well. If you know anybody I’ve overlooked, please let me know in the comments! Whether it’s a brewery we carry here at the store or not, it’s great to point out and applaud these breweries for their efforts. Cheers!

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