Walking from Dean Avenue into Wander Brewing, you likely notice the food truck out front, the high warehouse ceilings and the shiny, well-maintained brewing equipment that serves as a background for dozens of cheers’ a day.
While on a stroll downtown, your attention may be caught by what Boundary Bay Brewery calls Bellingham’s Backyard, their beer garden often a setting for live music, weddings and everyday connections being made over a pint of their latest seasonal release.
After hitting Boundary Bay, you bike the Interurban Trail home to Fairhaven and decide to grab a pint at Stones Throw Brewery before calling it a night. Stones Throw has multiple warm and inviting outdoor seating options, and often a stringband of some kind, setting the tone for your sunset IPA.
All of these breweries have quite a few things in common, whether it’s their presence in the Bellingham beer community or the ability to make you feel like part of it too when you walk in. However, there’s one important thing these three breweries share, and that’s their commitment to green powered beer by their participation in Puget Sound Energy’s Green Power program.
PSE’s Green Power program allows these breweries to neutralize their carbon footprint when crafting their beer, by tapping into Pacific Northwest renewable energy projects generated from wind, solar and biomass.
Many local businesses take steps towards sustainability in a variety of ways, but participation in the Green Power program is unique in that it helps community members and businesses to not only neutralize their own carbon footprint, but also supportthe growth of independent renewable energy projects in our region.
For as little as $4 per month you can join more than 6,000 PSE customers in Bellingham who are part of the Green Power program.
Three of these existing customers are breweries you likely find yourself at often. By enjoying a pint from Wander, Boundary Bay and Stones Throw, you’re directly supporting breweries committed to renewable energy.
Tap Trail decided to take a bike ride to each of these places on a sunny May afternoon, with experts from PSE in tow, so we could start the conversation on the local beer industry moving towards renewable energy through the Green Power program.
Our first stop was Wander Brewing, where we met Nicholas Hartrich and Peter Lillesve, PSE’s Outreach Manager and Energy Management Engineer. We all sat down with Chad Kuehl, Wander’s co-founder and brewer to talk about why Wander opted in to Green Power.
From what we’ve gathered, being part of Green Power Program was a no-brainer for Wander.
“We have a commitment to taking care of our employees, ourselves, the community and the environment,” Kuehl said in regards to why Wander decided to commit to repurchasing renewable power.
It’s possible for breweries to have a large carbon footprint, something that Wander is very aware of and is leading by example when it comes to reducing that carbon footprint. With Bellingham being such a beer-centric town, breweries do have a platform when it comes to leadership and sustainability.
“It’s our responsibility as a profitable business to be intelligent and conscious,” Kuehl said.
You can often find Wander with a full beer garden and long line for a taste of their barrel projects, they’re without a doubt a popular stop for a pint in Bellingham. As a town with small businesses so outspoken about sustainability, knowing that one of your favorite breweries is a part of directly repurchasing renewable power speaks volumes about where we choose to spend our money.
While Wander doesn’t necessarily advertise that they take daily steps towards a more sustainable way of making beer, choosing to pay that small incremental cost pays for itself with the amount of work it does in northwest renewable power projects.
After chatting with Wander, it was clear that the health of the environment was a value for them as a company, and being just one of three breweries involved in the Green Power program was just one way they were making their positive impact tangible.
It was time for our visit with Boundary Bay, however, so we got on our bikes and began the ride downtown. We took a back way paved with cement made out of recycled toilets, Hartrich said, as it was one of his old projects.
At Boundary Bay, it was too nice of a day not to enjoy the beer garden. Here, we met with Adam Lent, an engineer for the brewery for the last 14 years.
Considering the entity that is Boundary Bay, who is the oldest of the existing breweries in Bellingham, it was not surprising to learn that they require a lot of energy. Between powering the brewhouse, the restaurant, the beer garden, the Mountain Room, their downstairs brewery and a canning line when necessary, they’re almost always running power of some kind, according to Lent.
When closing servers and cooks get out late at night, there isn’t much time that there isn’t someone else in the building, whether that be an early morning baker or brewer.
One of the factors that often gets overlooked when it comes to sustainability within craft beer is water usage. Whether it’s the amount of water used to make beer (according to Lent, it takes about 7 barrels of water to make 1 barrel of beer) or the energy it takes to heat and cool that water, it’s one of the ways Boundary is looking to become more sustainable and improve upon consistently.
For Lent, that means things like re-piping the hot water tank. For Boundary as a whole, that means making as many things in house and from scratch as possible and doing it sensibly. While some things are harder to circumvent than others when it comes to sustainability, especially considering their size, Boundary is constantly moving in the direction of sustainability and coming up with ways to do better.
“[Boundary Bay] takes all opportunities for sustainable improvement,” Lent said. As he showed us around the block-sized facility, it became clear that in ways both big and small, this was true.
Boundary has been a part of energy-focused programs in the past, such as Sustainable Connections’ Community Energy Challenge. Now, they are committing to repurchasing renewable power by being a part of the Green Power Program. Whether you’re buying a six pack from their beer delivery bus or enjoying a pint in Bellingham’s backyard, the pint you’re drinking was crafted with sustainability in mind.
As the day grew later we biked the Interurban Trail for the last leg of our Green Power tour. It was a shady ride until Taylor Dock where we passed a solar array system donated to the residents of Bellingham by PSE in 2018. If you’ve spent any time on Taylor Dock before, you’ve likely seen this structure on the most south end of the dock, before you walk uphill and into Fairhaven.
Hartrich (center-front) and the Taylor Dock solar team, who biked & kayaked a number of solar panels to the project location // Photo courtesy of PSE
It’s comprised of twenty-eight solar panels, totaling over 8 kilowatts. Several of these panels were transported by bike or kayak to the location, to celebrate a truly Green Power project. In fact, this project was funded by a grant awarded in 2016 by the Green Power program and it’s participants.The solar panels help offset the electricity needed to light Taylor Dock when the sun goes down. Riding by this project on the way to Stones Throw was a more than appropriate way to end our bike tour and see the Green Power program’s mission come to life.
Arriving at Stones Throw, we couldn’t help but order from Big Stick BBQ and enjoy a Stones Throw beer, after all, we had earned it biking around Bellingham on a sunny day. Here we met with Jack Pflueger, an owner of Stones Throw who gave us some insight on why they chose to opt in to the Green Power program.
Stones Throw, like the other two breweries we visited that day, also takes several measures to be as sustainable as possible when it comes to creating delicious beer and an atmosphere to customers to enjoy that in.
Though smaller than Boundary Bay and Wander in size, the energy bill for running a brewery in general is no joke. That doesn’t make Stones Throw any less inclined to pay a little extra per month to fund renewable energy projects, however.
“We’re doing what we know is right,” Pflueger said. He explained that in addition to being part of the Green Power program, Stones Throw tries to keep the environment and community in mind with most decisions they make, whether that’s something in the back-of-house like their centralized refrigeration system, or giving back to non-profits they believe in.
As a local brewery, Stones Throw is a leader in the community, so they feel the responsibility to lead by example, Pflueger said. Decisions can be as small as changing from incandescent to LED lightbulbs. Imagine if every brewery in town did that, and as a result encouraged community members to do the same in their homes.
Stones Throw, Boundary Bay and Wander are all key parts of our community as a beer-centric town, and leaders when it comes to being committed to renewable energy. As beer drinkers, our dollar is our vote and by drinking at these places, we’re voting for renewable energy projects across the northwest.
If you’d like to find out how you can be part of the Green Power program in your own home or see specific projects funded by the Green Power program, there’s more information about it here.
If solar is something you’ve been thinking about, PSE has a program for that too, and you can find out more about it here.
If you’re interested in general renewable energy options for your home, visit PSE here to find out how you can follow the example set by these three breweries in neutralizing your carbon footprint.