Standing Stone Brewing Company

Sustainability

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Meet Our Heat Exchanger: Transforming “Waste” Heat Into Energy

Photo: M. Schweisguth

One of our sustainability goals is reaching zero net energy use at our restaurant and brewery. This means making sure the energy we make at Standing Stone Brewing is equal to or greater than what we take from utilities. This reduces emissions, increases energy independence and cuts operating costs.

Several years ago, we commissioned an audit to map out electricity and natural gas consumption, and develop a plan to reach zero net energy use. We’ve been making progress since then, including installing an Energy Management System (automates heat, light and other systems), putting solar panels on our roof and adding a heat exchanger (also known as waste heat recovery).

Heat exchangers transform “waste heat” emitted by appliances and building systems—like the warmth you feel behind your refrigerator—into fuel for other processes. By harnessing it, we avoid wasting this resource and reduce external energy needs. To share more about the process we asked co-owner Alex Amarotico, who set up the heat exchanger and spearheaded our zero net energy plan, to tell us about it.

What does a heat exchanger do?

We installed a water-cooled heat exchanger. This captures heat that’s produced by condensing units in refrigerant systems like our walk in cooler, walk in freezer and glycol chiller, and transfers it to our hot water heating system.

What are the main pieces and how does it work?

It has a stainless steel heat exchanger (made of many plates of thin stainless steel), valves that divert waste heat to the water-cooled heat, an exchanger for heating water (or our original air-cooled heat exchanger), circulators that push water through the heat exchanger, and a computerized control unit that monitors and controls system operations.

Why did you decide to install a heat exchanger?

The zero net energy use plan we commissioned showed this was one of the measures with the highest energy savings and cost efficiency. We’re prioritizing improvements by overall impact to make the most of our resources and generate savings to invest in additional pieces of the plan.

How much energy does it save?

It cuts about 10% of our energy use. Given the energy load of a typical brewery and restaurant, this is significant!

What’s next for SSBC’s energy conservation and renewables efforts?

We’re exploring ways to reuse waste cooking oil to make electricity or heat. We currently provide this to a biodiesel company but would love to close the loop, and process and reuse it in house.

Thank, Alex! If you’re intrigued and inspired, try a few simple tricks at home. If you have an oven that vents through one of your stove burners, plan ahead to cook on that burner when you’ll be baking. Steam veggies above a pot of pasta. If you have a cat or a laptop, keep them on your lap and turn down the thermostat down a few degrees, too (wink).

Feel free to ask for a peek at the accessible parts of our system the next time you visit our brewpub and restaurant, too.

Chalking It Up

All of us at Standing Stone lovingly remember the chalkboards at the heads of our elementary school classrooms. Our teachers used them to give lessons, illustrate topics, stay organized and play. We took a learning from our early education and brought chalkboards to our brewery! We feature them in every area of the restaurant, with ever-changing info for our customers and coworkers.

These eco-friendly boards allow us to communicate a range of news, updates and offerings without using paper (and trees). And, they’re fun! They’ve also helped us discover hidden art talents among our staff and let employees express their creativity. Here’s  virtual tour of our gallery:

Since its unveiling two years ago, the Standing Stone Specials Board has become a favorite centerpiece for our customers. This three-tiered hanging chalkboard is colorfully bursting with daily food and drink specials, often boasting local ingredients from our Standing Stone Farm and neighboring farms.

If you’ve visited us during the past year, you’ve no doubt noticed the vibrant chalkboards on display in the front windows and dining room. These are “chalked-full” of information about upcoming events, specialty beers, and lots more. Our resident artist, Sienna Quinn, illustrates these, making them extra eye-catching. Check them out on your next visit, and see what’s happening around here.

To share the fun, we recently replaced our paper kids’ menus with reusable mini chalkboards! Now kids can create chalk art of their own at the table. It’s okay if adults want to try their hand and art and play. too.

We make all of our chalkboards and thought we’d share tips for those who want to try this at home.  We craft ours from repurposed wood, often using extra pieces from construction projects. We smear each board with two coats of chalkboard paint then rub the boards with chalk to prep them for use. Check out the chalkboard paint at your local hardware store and try making your own at home! They make great reusable message boards as an alternative to paper.

Keep an eye out for these fresh, new boards around the restaurant and brewery. And enjoy them while they last, because odds are, you won’t see the same one twice!

By in Food, Sustainability 0

Year-round Food Gardening: Tips for Cold Weather Cultivation

Photo: M. Schweisguth

Once fall comes into full force and edges toward winter, we often see this as end of the produce growing season. However, in Southern Oregon, and many climates, we can cultivate food year round. We just need to do a little digging to learn what can weather the winter, and how to protect plants and soil from the elements. Several crops can be plated in the fall or late winter for harvest through the winter or early spring. Others are traditionally planted in the fall and mature later in the spring.

At Standing Stone Brewing Co, we’ve been doing a bit of research to help us expand our rooftop garden into a year-round source of fresh ingredients for our restaurant.

To help get more folks into the fulfilling, sustainable fun of four-season gardening, we thought we’d share some of what we’ve learned. While it’s a bit late to plant all but a few roots and bulbs for the fall, you can start planning to get an early start on your 2012 garden.

Choosing Crops

Lots of well-loved veggies can take the cold, including beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, chard, collards, kale, parsley, parsnips and scallions. Garlic and fava beans are generally planted in mid- to late-fall and mature in spring. Don’t forget perennial crops like sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), which sustain themselves year after year. To determine what will work where you are, look for localized gardening calendars and information, check seed packets and plant tags, or ask seed providers for temperature ranges needed for germination, growth and survival.

Raise the Temperature

Reuse old windows and doors, laid on bricks or a wooden frame, to make a cold frame. Cover rows with home-size tunnels from a garden supply store, or make some from reused plastic sheeting or pallet wrap on a frame of bamboo or flexible branches. Those with more space and extra cash might consider a small greenhouse. We’ve built a cold frame for our rooftop garden and are devising a way to route heat from our waste heat recovery system to our garden to warm it in winter.

Protect Plants

Pallet wrap garden cover (photo: M. Schweisguth)

Cover plants that aren’t in a cold frame or other shelter when nighttime temperatures are predicted to get close to or below the lowest temperature at which they can survive. Reused large plastic bags and pallet wrap work well. Gardening stores sell various plant coverings, too. Put leaves, reused plastic sheeting or seasonal row cover over the tops of root vegetables to keep them alive during hard frosts and snow, then uncover during the day to promote growth.

 Safeguard Your Soil

Mulch around plants to keep soil from freezing. Mulch or cover unused garden beds to prevent soil compaction from heavy rain, sleet and snow, too.

Grow Indoors

Small plants like herbs and greens can thrive indoor in pots, and you won’t need to brave the elements to harvest them. Turn sunny windows into winter gardens, and delight in the flavor, clean air and ambience this provides.

Happy gardening!

Latest Specialty Beer: NPK Ale

We’ve got a freshly harvested specialty beer on tap for you to enjoy: NPK Ale.

This craft brew is part of our Pints for a Purpose program wherein specialty beer sales benefit a nonprofit for three weeks. Rogue Valley Farm to School (RVF2S) is the beneficiary. You can learn more about this cause and program on a previous blog.  Join us for the kickoff on Monday, 11/7 from 5-9 pm, and enjoy a few pints from 11/7-11/26 to support this great cause.

About the name

NPK Ale is named after the NPK balance – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (K is its elemental symbol) that farmers seek to achieve in nourishing their soil. Soil amendments often list NPK proportions. These important nutrients help build productive, healthy plants with strong roots—analogous to what we’re doing by supporting RVF2S, and the work they’re doing to connect kids, schools and local farms to cultivate a resilient food system.

About the beer

NPK Ale has a soft amber hue and a light body. You’ll enjoy a toasted marshmallow aroma, a smooth mouthfeel, rounded sweet malt flavor and low bitterness.

Malt (2nd runnings from a mash with these malts*)

  • Organic 2-Row
  • Briess Extra Special
  • Acidulated

Hops

  • Bittering:  Organic Magnum
  • Flavor/Aroma:  Goldings, Cascade

* This beer was brewed from the second runnings of our upcoming barley wine.  So what’s that mean? During the later process of brewing, the sweet wort (sugar water) is separated from the malt and run to the kettle.  The initial wort sent to the kettle comprises the high content sugar water made up of the initial mash water added to the process.  More water is added to rinse the malt of remaining sugars through a process called sparging.  This next bit of wort is lower in sugar content and is called the second runnings.

We effectively made 2 different beers from the same mash:  a higher alcohol barley wine from the first runnings and a lower alcohol “small beer” from the second runnings. While they both have the same malt bill, albeit different sugar contents, the beers can be hopped differently in the kettle.  Our small beer was very low hopped to approximately 12 IBU, allowing the malt profile to shine through.  We also added a touch of lactose to add weight to its naturally light body.

Beer and Food Pairings

Schoolkids learning about seed saving (photo: RVF2S)

We suggest complementing NPK ale with lightly flavored foods so as not to overwhelm its delicate flavor.

  • Wood Fired Pretzel
  • Savory Chicken Soup
  • Caesar Salad
  • Sauteed Veggie Wrap
  • Local food menu specials – support local farms and reward yourself, too!

Enjoy responsibly – and help RVF2S cultivate healthful eating and strong family farms!

Standing Stone Farm Project Launches!

Melza, Alex Brandon and Rachel at our farm (photo: M. Schweisguth)

There’s an extra special buzz around here lately since we moved onto our new farmland on October 1st, launching the Standing Stone Farm Project. To prepare this new home for our chickens and cows, our farm team is spending lots of time there, especially Co-owner Alex, Server/Sustainability Coordinator Brandon Schilling, Server/Chicken Caretaker Melza Quinn and our fence and irrigation team. We’re excited about this latest step in our journey to produce our own food and shrink our environmental footprint.

We’ve long made it a priority to purchase sustainable and locally produced ingredients to maximize quality, reduce environmental impacts and support our local economy. Our menu features produce from diverse family farms, beer made with Alpha Beta hops, Rogue Creamery Cheese, regional wines and Noble Coffee, among other regional delights. We’ve also undertaken significant measures to reduce waste through landfill diversion while slashing energy use and installing solar panels.

In 2009, we began using beef from Valley View Beef in Ashland, OR and started musing about raising our own food. Since Valley View raises grass-fed beef on expansive, chemical-free pasture using rotational grazing, we asked owner Dave Westerberg if we could start a chicken flock there. He heartily agreed, and we got hens that produce all the eggs we need. We started our own composting operation there, too.

Seeking to produce more of our ingredients, we developed a plan for our own farm and began looking for land. Our plan included adding chickens for poultry, purchasing our own cattle and composting kitchen waste. As luck would have it, the City of Ashland put out a Request for Proposals for City-owned pasture a mile from our restaurant, so we applied.

After the City approved our proposal (hooray!), we started preparing by raising breeder chickens for poultry and purchasing cattle from a neighboring farm. Melza, who plays a central role in caretaking our egg layers, took the lead in researching and selecting heritage chicken breeds  for full-flavored poultry. We purchased chicks this summer, which are now growing hens that will reproduce to create our poultry flock. They’re Delaware, New Hampshire, Wyandotte, and Australorp breeds, coloring the pasture white, red, orange and black feathers. We also bought three Anatolian Shepherd sheepdogs, named IPA, Stone and Ruby, whom we’re training to herd our cows.

On October 1st, we began preparing the site for our chickens and cattle, starting with fence building. We’re looking forward to seeing our livestock make themselves at home in their spacious digs. Like Valley View, we’re using a rotational grazing system wherein cows and chickens cycle through different sections of pasture to prevent over-compaction and over-grazing, and help the land rejuvenate.

We’re working on additional farm activities to localize more of our food (bees…honey..mmmmm), further our environmental goals and welcome our community to learn and enjoy. For starters, we’re holding our Third Annual Pumpkins and Pints there on October 23, and invite all to attend. In additional to the usual pumpkin carving, food and drinks, Brandon and Melza will share our vision and plans for the farm, and you’ll be able to get up close and personal with our chickens and cattle, who will be moved onto our farm by then. We hope to see you there!

Our Rooftop Garden: Sustainably Delicious Penthouse Produce

If you follow our blog or the news, you probably know that we’re getting ready to launch our own farming operation right here in Ashland, OR. We’re leasing land from the City and will be able to move in on October 1st. We’re counting the days!

We’re not waiting to start growing our own food, though. We’ve planted a rooftop garden to jump-start our in-house food sourcing, make the most of all of our brewpub’s space and tap into solar power in yet another way.

Though we’re already raising our own egg-producing free-range chickens, buying beef raised in Ashland and purchasing as many local and regional foods as we can get our hands on, we want to do more to get our ingredients closer to home. This maximizes flavor and minimizes environmental footprint – a double win.

Brandon Schilling, server and sustainability coordinator, has taken the lead to grow this effort, helping reduce food miles to mere feet.

Admittedly, it provides just a small part of what we use for our menu, but we believe in doing what we can. Any tiny step in the right direction takes us closer to a more sustainable world.

We started simple, with herbs like basil and mint. If you’ve noticed a new twist on favorites like our special mojitoes and select pizzas, that’s the taste of ultra-fresh, organic ingredients. We repurposed produce containers so they’ll keep delivering sustainable goodness.

As the weather’s become warmer and we’ve fine-tuned our skills, we’ve planted tomatoes, tomatilloes, cucumbers and strawberries. They’re happily thriving in repurposed 5-gallon buckets from ingredients and reused plant pots. We’re starting kale, beets, carrots and other greens for the fall and winter.

Our garden is fed with compost made from our restaurant kitchen scraps and spent grain from our brewery. As we work to localize food production, we’re also seeking to shrink the environmental impact of related inputs.

The next time you visit our restaurant, be sure to ask your server what foods and beverages feature our penthouse produce.

Till then, we hope you enjoy some recent photos and get inspired to start growing a bit of your own fresh food, no matter how much space you have.

To save money and maximize your positive environmental impact, reuse old containers for planters and look for things you can repurpose into plant supports. They’ll last for many seasons to come, keeping good materials our of landfills and saving the resources used to process the many reusable items that get recycled long before their useful life has ended.

Compost yard and kitchen scraps to amend your soil, too. Natural processes like this make expensive, prepared fertilizers, which often contain petroleum byproducts, unnecessary. Plant matter makes up much of what’s in our landfills, too. This wastes valuable materials we need to rebuild our world’s depleted soils and generates a lot of methane one of the most potent greenhouse gasses.

Now that’s really gardening with a green thumb, and the results are delicious for people and planet alike. Dig in!

Two Wheels, Two Years: Bike Program Celebrates Second Anniversary

This month, we celebrate the Two-Year anniversary of the Standing Stone Brewing Co “RPM” Bike Commuter Program.  Through this program, 35 employees have received new bicycles to date. These proud owners are happy as ever to have pedal-powered transportation in bike friendly Ashland, OR.

Participating employees become members of the RPM Club, which signifies goals to Reduce car trips, Promote living and working in Ashland, and Maintain an active lifestyle. Not only does this have a positive impact on the environment, it boosts employee health and wellness, and reduces transportation costs – a win all around. To be eligible, employees must have worked 1,000 hours at Standing Stone, and promise to  2-wheel it to work for 45 round trips in one year.

Since giving out the first round of 17 bikes in 2009, we’ve inspired related initiatives at Standing Stone and in the community. Our friends at Rogue Creamery launched their Nellie Green Pedal Power program in December 2009, with 25 team members participating. Last year, they passed the torch to Rogue Federal Credit Union, which purchased 20 bikes for their bike-to-work program as well.

At Standing Stone, we installed a 14-bicycle rack in the street in front of our restaurant and brewery. The Ashland Outdoor Store, just a few blocks away, soon followed suit with on-street bike parking. These racks act as central hubs for cyclists in downtown Ashland.

We’ve also designed a new line of bike themed T-shirts that express our joint passions for biking and beer. These aren’t just for employees. Stop by our brewpub to pick one up for yourself or a friend!

As is tradition, in September Standing Stone employees will participate in the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s (BTA) annual Bike Commute Challenge. This Oregon-wide contest invites businesses of all sizes to log employee cycling trips and challenge others in the state and local community to get in gear. The workplaces with the highest percentage of commutes by bicycle during the month win! Last year, Standing Stone employees logged 177 commutes, totaling 567 miles! Visit the BTA website to get more information, see who’s participating and sign up a workplace team. Bring on the challenge!

Check out this slideshow, too, from Standing Stone photographer, George Rubaloff, with photo highlights of happy bikers when we kicked off the program with a ride through Ashland two years ago.

We continue to celebrate this program every day and hope you’ll join us!

Pints for a Purpose Donation Program: Call for Applications

Several years ago, we created a program where we donate a portion of sales from one of our specialty beers to a nonprofit selected by Standing Stone Brewing Co employees. It’s been well received and has benefited a lot of great causes.

To extend the benefits further, we’ve launched a freshly reformulated twist on this initiative, dubbed “Pints for A Purpose.” Instead of asking employees to nominate recipients, we’re inviting nonprofits whose work aligns with our mission – enhancing sustainability, local food, education and community – to apply.

Here’s how the program works: The nonprofit gets 25 cents for every pint sold for three weeks. We also hold a kickoff at our restaurant and brewery where we offer the opportunity for the organization to receive up to $1 per pint depending on the number of pints sold. Each recipient’s fundraising success depends on the their efforts to promote the program. We provide template promotional text and promote it though our blog, twitter, Facebook and at our restaurant. Of course, we emphasize responsible alcohol consumption in all communication, and require recipients to do the same.

Here are the guidelines:

  • Recipients must be a registered 501c3 nonprofit
  • The nonprofit’s work must align with our mission to enhance environmental sustainability, local food, education and/or community.
  • Recipients must be locally based and benefit our community
  • We are not able to fund individuals or sports teams
  • We will not choose the same organization two years in a row to ensure we can benefit a wider range of relevant, worthy causes. Please apply only if you haven’t received funding from this program in the past year.
  • Recipients must be able and willing to promote the program and attend the kickoff to support their fundraising success.

If your organization meets the program guidelines, we encourage you to apply by August 15th. You can find more details and an application online

A diverse employee team will review applications and we’ll let you know of our decision within eight weeks. We are unable to respond to calls or emails regarding your application status, but you’ll receive an email confirmation that your submission has been received.

Thanks for the work you do, and good luck!

Getting To Zero Waste

At Standing Stone Brewing Company, we’re passionate about serving great craft beer and food while improving the planet. Our efforts have gained some recognition recently, including placing #2 on the Oregon Business 100 Best Companies to Work For list, and the Ashland Conservation Commission “Conservation Heroes” Award.

While we’re honored by these commendations we’re always determined to do better. So, we set high goals for ourselves, including creating zero waste at our restaurant and brewery – sending nothing to the landfill.

Last year, Brandon Schilling, an SOU graduate and sustainability enthusiast, joined our restaurant family. Brandon does double duty as a server and Sustainability Coordinator and has brought lots of fresh ideas and practices to improve our environmental impact. We asked him to give us a peek into our zero waste journey and provide some tips for others.

1. How does Standing Stone work to achieve zero waste?

Our approach is to reduce our use of materials in the first place, then reuse, compost and recycle what’s left. We offer lots of house made products that involve less packaging, and we store our dry ingredients in reusable and washable glass jars. We feed our chickens with restaurant and brewery byproducts, including spent grain and hops and vegetable scraps. Of course, we recycle, too. As recycling has become the least effective “R,” however, we like to keep every resource that comes in to Standing Stone within our operation until the very end of its lifecycle! Our newest projects are all about completing the resource circle by converting items that are normally trashed into resources.

2. How does Standing Stone reduce materials use?

We save tons of glass every year by selling kegged wine from Wooldridge Creek and Misty Oaks. We buy locally from farmers who use durable packaging and sustainable delivery methods, like Village Farm’s bike delivery! We’ve switched individually packaged items to bulk items, such as tea and honey, and we repurpose our packaging. For instance, we reuse kitchen buckets for waste management bins, and turn produce crates and waxed boxes into garden planters.

3. How do employees learn and get involved?

Employee education includes hands-on exercises and presentations at staff meetings, as well as signage with pictures instead of words to help clear the confusion about what’s recyclable and what’s compostable. We offer Waste Management 101 as part of  new employees’ job training. Sorting reusables, compostables and recycling and understanding waste management is an integrative part of everyone’s jobs, and it’s all of our responsibility to be conscious of our sustainability policies and practices.

4. How can anyone work toward zero waste?

Start with being conscious of reducing the materials you use. Use metal water bottles, reusable grocery bags, cloth towels and napkins, or a handkerchief rather than tissue. Also consider making holiday cards from paper packaging, and saving glass jars and plastic containers for storage. Purchase produce from farmers markets (in reusable bags), choose bulk foods, and compost food scraps in your own back yard. And when you crave a fresh beer, bring in your reusable growler bottle for us to fill!

Thanks Brandon!  Feel free to post a comment with your own questions and ideas – we’re in this together! For more tips, see the No Impact Project and Earth91.org.

Get in Gear With Bike to Work Week 5/16-20!

Spring is the perfect time to tune up your bike and enjoy healthful, fun, zero emission, gas-free transit. We love leaving our cars at home to cycle and walk as much as possible, and have an employee bike commuting program to reward pedal powered commuting. Oregon’s Bicycle Transportation Alliance recently recognized our 2-wheeled advocacy with their Alice award for 2011, and we’re really touched by the honor.

To help folks get in gear, the League of American Bicyclists has designated May as Bike to Work Month, and organizes a National Bike to Work week each May. It’s May 16-20 this year (conveniently overlapping with American Craft Beer Week, nice!), ending with Bike to Work Day on May 20. The League’s website lists events nationwide.

Bike to Work Rogue Valley is hosting the regional festivities. You can get the details on their website and Facebook page.

We encourage you to pledge to bike to work (for all or part of the distance) and get tips for safe, fun riding.

Click to sign up in the Rogue Valley!

To map your route, check out this online tool from Clif Bar.  The Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD) website offers more tips and a tool to map out a route combining biking and an RVTD bus ride.

On Bike to Work Day, Friday, May 20, bike commuters can enjoy energizing refreshments from 7-8:30 AM at three locations in the Valley, two in Medford and one in Ashland, OR. Find the pit stop on your route here.

To cap off the week, there will be a “Bike to Work Happy Hour” on Friday, May 20 from 4-6 pm, with free food, giveaways and more. Standing Stone Brewing Co is one of three sites, along with Porters Dining at the Depot in Medford (147 N. Front St) and The Brick in Central Point (311 E. Pine St). We hope to see you at Standing Stone for some well-deserved R&R after a week of pedaling away!

To extend the fun even longer, we’re hosting a community bike ride on Saturday 5/21. We’ll meet at Standing Stone at 1 pm and enjoy a 6-mile round trip bike ride to Alpha Beta Hop Farm to tour the beautiful vines that give beer its signature flavor. Afterwards, we’ll head back to Standing Stone to relax and refuel.

For those who are motivated to keep on cycling after Bike to Work week, check out the Clif Bar 2 Mile Challenge. Through this program, Clif Bar encourages folks to replace car trips with biking, starting with short distances like two miles. Two miles may not sound like a lot, but about 40% of car trips nationwide are less than two miles, so replacing them with cycling makes a big difference. (Get more cool and inspiring facts here.) Participants can designate one of three environmental and bike-advocacy nonprofits to benefit from each mile they bike. We encourage you to sign up.

Happy biking!