Anybody that has visited their local craft brewery or follows a craft brewery on social media is most likely familiar with how involved these businesses are in their local community. A few of the topics that likely come to mind when someone hears the word “sustainability” may include recycling, environmental stewardship, and even climate change. Community involvement and outreach are two very important branches of sustainability of which are often overlooked.
According to the Brewers Association (BA), as of 2018, there are more than 7,300 craft breweries in the United States, with every single one of those being in their own unique communities. Like any business, breweries realize that many of their customers are people within their community or ones who have a connection to the community. The more involved a brewery becomes and the more exposure they gain from making positive changes in their community, the higher the chances are of driving in additional customers.
One simple, yet effective way that many breweries increase their community involvement and awareness is through encouraging local community groups to hold events, meetings, and get-togethers at their facilities. This allows the opportunity to increase brand awareness for community members that may have not previously visited an establishment, but now have a reason to. Another great way to grow community involvement is to create and hold events that align with the brewery’s values and brand, while also drawing on interests of the local community. Singlespeed Brewing Co. of Waterloo, Iowa hosts bi-monthly community bike rides between May and October every year. These Bike Rides are a partnership between the brewery and two locally owned bike shops in the surrounding communities. The ride is free to participate in, and every event has a different local non-profit organization that sponsors the ride for that week, where they receive 10% of all food and beverage sales for that evening.
Driving customers through the door to increase sales is not the only reason why breweries are getting involved within their communities, however. Many brewery owners open in a specific area or location because it means something or represents something for them. This is what is considered their community. Finding a place where the people and values align with a brewery’s brand, makes running a business more enjoyable and possibly even more successful.
Educating and communicating the brewery’s sustainable practices to the community is one of the most important aspects of sustainable brewing. Being environmental stewards in an industry is a large accomplishment, and a brewery should be making sure that their community is aware of what they’re doing to produce great products while minimizing both environmental and community impact. A recent article by Sanya Carley and Lilian Yahng titled “Willingness-to-pay for sustainable beer” examined the consumer’s willingness to pay (WTP) for a beer that they know has been sustainably produced. This article concluded that in fact, there is a strong correlation between sustainable beer and consumer WTP. The article says, “consumers who are willing to pay a premium for sustainable beer tend to be more aware of their purchasing behavior, their responsibilities as both consumers and stewards of the Earth, and the product offerings that are available to them” (Carley et al. 2018). These communication techniques can be as simple as making social media posts about practices at the facility, or even posting “we recycle” or “we compost” signs in the taproom. Though simple, these techniques can help bring awareness to what the brewery is doing environmentally, and sometimes that is all that it takes to gain new customers.
As breweries continue to be leaders and stewards in their communities across the country and world, most are hopeful that sustainable practices will continue to be implemented in all aspects of life and business, extending even further than the craft beer industry!
Carley S, Yahng L.“Willingness-to-pay for sustainable beer.” PLoS ONE, Vol. 13, 2018. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0204917
About the Author
Brewery Sustainability and Efficiency Intern
Iowa Waste Reduction Center