Water Conservation, Sustainability Central to Craft Brewery Operations

It wasn’t Peter Kruger’s intention to become a sustainability expert at Bear Republic Brewery – but then, it wasn’t really his intention to get involved with the commercial craft brewing industry at all.

Back in 1992 when Kruger graduated from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR with a history degree, he had his sights set on a Master’s program in Archaeology at Boston University.

An avid home brewer with a keen interest in the emerging craft brewing movement, Kruger decided to take a year off from his studies and support himself through a job at Full Sail Brewing Company in Portland. When the “clock ran down,” as Kruger puts it, after his year deferment, he realized he very much wanted to stay in the beer business.

Kruger didn’t make his way to Bear Republic until 1997 after a series of positions with other brewing operations that included Head Brewer at Desert Edge Brewery in Salt Lake City. He stayed at Bear Republic for two and a half years, before taking what he calls a “six year hiatus” to do consulting.

Peter Kruger

In 2006 when Bear Republic broke ground on their Factory Five Brewery in Cloverdale, CA, Kruger was recruited back, at first as a consultant to the company’s expansion, and then fully integrated into the organization as its Master Brewer.

Now, in addition to his job as Master Brewer for Bear Republic’s Production Brewery in Cloverdale, Kruger serves with eleven others on the Sustainability Subcommittee of the Brewer’s Association, one of the most comprehensive organizations in the industry, representing both craft and home brewing operations throughout the country.

According to Kruger, he brings real world experience to a committee composed largely of sustainability professionals who focus on conservation full time.

“The value that I’ve added … is that I’m one of the few actual brewers,” Kruger explains. “ I can take what we’ve been talking about and add it to (operations). I can gather data through trials and errors to see how it actually works on the brewery floor.”

Sustainability isn’t just a committee responsibility for Kruger or for Bear Republic.

Several years ago when the company went to the City of Cloverdale to obtain entitlements to grow its production, the city was grappling with drought conditions, resulting in a lack of water for such business expansion. Cloverdale did not have the funds to dig the additional wells that would be required for the entitlements.

Bear Republic, a family-owned business, responded by offering to write a check for the required capital, which constituted an advance on the impact fees the brewery would be required to pay the city in order to operate. The city accepted and two new wells were dug, providing the necessary water.

The experience, Kruger said, has created a “culture of conservation” throughout the company.

“It takes between five to seven gallons of water per gallon of beer produced,” Kruger estimates. “We’ve ratcheted that down to three point two gallons.”

Kruger said the company has achieved that by installing flow meters and timers throughout the plant. In addition, Bear Republic is experimenting with an anaerobic digester; a system that creates the potential to reuse a large portion of the brewery’s wastewater by burning methane to create electricity for the energy needed to heat water for brewing operations.

Kruger called it as a “closed circuit, energy neutral wastewater treatment and water recycling system.” He’ll be discussing the innovative system, as well as other sustainability issues, at the upcoming North Coast Expo on December 3, in Santa Rosa.

Kruger will be joined at the by three others panelists at a conference session entitled “Conservation, the New Innovation: Exploring Water Saving Technologies While Improving Wine Quality.”

The other panelists include Charlie Gilmore, the Senior Winemaker at Fetzer; Martin Moseley, Owner/Winemaker at Moseley Family Cellars; and Mark Theis, Winemaker for Kendall Jackson. Nick Goldschmidt, Winemaster with Goldschmidt Vineyards, will moderate the session.

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