Fermentation Tanks

Collaboration between craft brewers and municipalities a win-win for all

When it comes to managing the wastewater leaving his craft beer facility, the owner of Lake of Bays Brewery knows very well how close and valuable his working relationship is with the local municipality.

“If we sneeze here, they feel it at the treatment plant up the street,” said Darren Smith, underlining the importance of on-going dialogue between craft breweries and municipalities on water management before, during and after craft beer production.

“There’s no such thing as ‘away’ when it comes to environmental issues,” Smith said from his brewery in the Muskokas. “If you put things down a drain they’re not going away. They’re just going someplace where someone else has to deal with them.”

Ontario’s craft brewers take great pride in their all-natural products and economic contributions to communities. And as well they should. This fast-growing beverage industry produces scores of homegrown beers and creates hundreds of paying jobs across the province.

As a result, the brewers enjoy good working relationships with their municipal governments, collaborating on everything from revitalizing old buildings and neighbourhoods to tourism marketing. They also share common interest in the sustainable use and management of water resources and infrastructure.

“Municipalities know how we’re affecting their water usage,” said Sam Corbeil of Sawdust Brewery in Gravenhurst, Ont.  “We need to be more accountable for what we’re doing. So it’s important for us to have that communication with the town.”

Wastewater is water with stuff in it. And the more of that stuff that goes down the drain and into the local treatment plant, the more the local municipality will charge breweries for the cleanup.

Those charges can be a real eye-opener for small-batch breweries that don’t monitor water usage, don’t know what they are washing down the drain and don’t understand potential municipal charges.

“A city official will come knock on your door and tell you what’s in your wastewater and tell you how much it’s going to cost,” said Mario Bourgeois of Cassels Brewery near Ottawa. “That expense can have a big effect on your bank account.”

Michael Fagan, senior vice-president of the BLOOM Centre for Sustainability, said water management represents challenges as well as opportunities for breweries.

“Once the brewery influence on municipal water treatment is understood, the only barrier to change has been a lack of practical actionable information on improving craft brewery water management,” said Fagan, explaining how BLOOM helps bridge the brewers and municipalities. “We are now providing that guidance, and as a result the craft brewing sector is pursuing improved water management that is a win-win for everyone.”

The Province of Ontario applauds BLOOM for generating these collaborative efforts to protect the province’s natural ecosystems, said a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

“We recognize how important it is to partner with businesses and municipalities to understand and appreciate the importance of Ontario’s water,” said Lindsay Davidson. “Good stewardship and attention to the environment benefits all Ontarians.”

The bottom-line benefit of a good working relationship between a brewery and its municipality is clean and simple, said Geordan Saunders, founder and general manager of the Napanee Beer Company.

“As we open up businesses in small towns we want to become positive parts of our community and have a positive impact on the people we work with and live with,” said Saunders. “Thinking about how we’re impacting our municipality from a resource point of view is just as important as everything else we do.”