Sustainability has entered the lexicon of everyday, eco-conscious conversation, and for more reasons than to protect the garnish on our favorite holiday cocktails, breweries and distilleries are amping up their game to leave less of an ecological footprint.
Whether fall moves you to imbibe your spirits for more enjoyment from seasonal favorites, or to help you sustain your sanity at the holiday spread, we can all celebrate this year’s festivities with the knowledge that our adult beverages have reached our tables through mindful, responsible means. It’s time we raise the bar on our bar!
Sustainability, part of the bedrock of environmental law since the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), was initially centered around maintaining natural resources for present and future generations. The definition has since evolved to align with environmental, social, and economic—the “three pillars” of sustainability. Today, organizations often refer to one or all three pillars when making green decisions.
Although more companies are enacting eco-friendly policies and communicating their efforts in annual reports—a more than 65 percent report increase since 2011, according to the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index— there is no “sustainability act” to secure the use of sustainable practices.
From distilling and brewing processes to the packaging and shipping of products, distilleries and breweries utilize vast amounts of resources. To get an idea of just how much corporations use, let’s look at small Kentucky distillery Four Roses. To make their bourbon, they use 1.3 million gallons of water daily and approximately 60,000 bushels of corn per year.
Perhaps for this reason, 78 percent of Americans seek companies that positively impact the environment, according to the 2018 Cone/Porter Novelli Purpose Study.
In the spirit of giving 100 percent of you and 78 percent of what Americans seek, here’s a list of three brands that provide sustainable quality spirits.
Death’s Door Distillery
Wisconsin’s Death’s Door Distillery was inspired by a 2005 economic development project to restore the agriculture and local economy of the state’s Washington Island. With assistance from the Michael Fields Institute, brothers Tom and Ken Koyen selected a wheat variety, perfect for the island’s climate, and planted five acres where popular potato fields of the 1950s once resided. Nearly seven years later, in 2012, Brian Ellison founded Death’s Door Spirits, the manufacturers of gin, vodka, whisky, bourbon, and Wondermint, the world’s first and only artisan craft peppermint schnapps.
In support of local agriculture and American products, and to make their spirits possible, more than 1,000 acres of wheat is grown on the island, while their barley is sourced from nearby farms. Bottles for their brand, made in the U.S., cuts their carbon emissions by two tons per shipment, and 1 percent of their revenue, donated to 1% for the Planet, supports clean water initiatives for the Great Lakes.
While Wisconsin owes thanks to Death’s Door, we’re thankful, too…for their list of 29 fruity, spicy and minty recipes! Garnish your dessert table with their “Wonder Cocoa,” “Mint Mule” and “Harvest Mule” drinks, or enjoy their strawberry and mushroom infused vodka recipe in place of Pinot Noir to heighten the flavor of your turkey dinner!
McClintock Distilling Company
Namesake of inventor McClintock Young, this Maryland distillery has earned credit for using and advancing sustainable technology. Their choice of organic grains and 100 percent wind and solar energy merited the distillery top billing on the Clean Choice Energy 2017 list of favorites.
McClintock’s environmental impact and efforts are fully disclosed in their blog, and like a salute to Earth Day, their annual progress is shared each April. Among these practices is their “Grain to Glass” initiative. Spent grains are reused as livestock feed in local farms, and the local bay and watershed are spared tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater each year with their closed-loop cooling system and advanced tank cleaning.
This holiday season, impress guests with The Friendly Ghost Whiskey Sour. Mixed with McClintock’s Maryland-Heritage White Whiskey, this fun spin on an old favorite is the perfect blend of sweet and savory with bursts of citrus.
Although Brooklyn wasn’t cultivating potatoes like Washington Island before Death’s Door, the borough experienced its own downfall in the ’70s when its flowing line of breweries and nearly 100-year history collapsed. It would be another decade before Brooklyn Brewery first delivers their novel brew to Brooklyn bars, then another before their move to Williamsburg to open their brewhouse. But the brewery’s since-then sustainability efforts have earned them a place in New York’s brewing lineage, as well as a high rank on the Clean Choice Energy 2017 list of favorites.
Brooklyn Brewery officiated its sustainability pledge in 2013 with the creation of their Green Team, but their eco-resume boasts 27 years of sustainable practices. Their switch to wind energy and use of heat exchange systems, high-efficiency boilers, high-tech foam insulation, and a number of steam-powered components reduces, recaptures, and recreates energy. For further energy conservation, they partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation in 2016 to plant 375 acres of CO²-converting trees in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, counteracting the electricity and natural gas use in one year’s production of 126,000 bottle cases and 76,000 ½ barrel kegs.