North Brewing

• • • Sustainability Award • • •


Brewing on an industrial scale is not the environmentally friendly practice we’d like to think it is; feeding cows with spent grains is not going to offset the environmental cost of using energy, water and CO2 in the quantities that we do. The Sustainability Award aims to highlight the work of a brewery that’s facing up to the responsibility our industry has not only to offset the effects brewing has on the environment, but build towards a more sustainable future. 

When North Brewing was planning the new brewery, taproom and warehouse that would become its new Springwell site, the team decided to draw solar panels into the blueprints wherever possible. “We wanted to build something that supported the future we want to live in,” says Sarah Hardy, North’s Head of Marketing, reminiscing on the days when Springwell was just a doodle on the drawing board. 

Two years on, and the warehouse adjacent to the Springwell brewery is clad in enough panels to save 8,567kg of CO2 per year, providing juice for the fleet of electric vans that North now uses to deliver 30-40% of the brewery’s webshop orders, the delivery fees for which are waived.

North has also invested a lot of time and energy in selecting a merchandise manufacturer whose values align with its own; landing on one, the brewery now works exclusively with Teemill to produce fabric merch using 100% organic cotton and environmentally friendly inks. Based on the Isle of White, Teemill uses wind power to support a circular model that allows fabrics to be returned, recycled and remade into new apparel. 

But aside from the numerous small actions that combine to create a bigger impact, North is also adjusting its brewing practices to lower its carbon footprint. “We’ve been trying to use more English hops in recent times,” says Sarah. “Magnum is our go-to bittering hop, particularly in our darker beers, so if we can switch our Magnum to a fully British-grown hop, our footprint will be dramatically lowered. This transition is still very much in the trial stages, but it’s something we’re looking at within the wider context of using more local ingredients.

“We’ve also been looking at developing our cask range over the last 12 months. We’ve always made cask beer, but it was never entirely a focus, we just racked a few casks of our pale ale when we got the chance. Now we’ve three permanent cask beers: a blonde, a session bitter, and a session IPA, as well as a rotating cask that’s usually a collab”.

I ask Sarah if this investment in cask has anything to do with the CO2 shortages that have plagued the industry over the last year. While she says the two are in all honesty unrelated, she does acknowledge that in recent times the team has joked that “if we can’t get any CO2 we’ll just put everything in cask. We probably wouldn’t meet our sales.”

But the reality is that brewing for cask is incredibly efficient; “it’s quick to brew,” says Sarah, “and so it doesn’t tie up the tank space, but aside from that, the fact that it needs to be drunk within four months means it’s always going to be fresh, probably consumed locally, and you just know someone has brewed that product, racked it, and now you’re drinking it. It makes you appreciate the skill of the brewer, and the industry more widely.” Who knew sustainability could be so romantic? 

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