A College President Who Has the Spirit of Beer

January 19, 2012

This is my favorite posting on beer in a long time.

Darron Collins is the president of the College of the Atlantic, a school where studies are seen through the lens of human ecology. Apparently he understand the human ecology of beer. Read what he has to say about it here, including gems such as this one: “I, as any good beer-lover would have done in this situation, sat down on my barley sack, cleansed the pallet with a bite of pretzel, and reached for my glass.”


Green Roof Raising

September 11, 2010

Last weekend I helped build two green roofs on campus at American University. Green roofs in Washington D.C. help prevent water pollution from entering the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. Details on the District of Columbia’s green roof incentives are online here.

Channel 9 News interviewed me about the project.

Channel 9 News Living Green

It took about fifty volunteers five days to build 2200 square feet of living roof. It was a lot of fun.

Loads more photos on Facebook.

Fig Picking & Fig Jam (a.k.a. FIGJAM)

August 18, 2010

As if solar panels weren’t enough. The day after the solar PV system was completed we picked our first harvest of homegrown figs.

Well, I call them ‘homegrown’ but that term implies that the people in my home did something to grow them. But that’s just not true. All we did is wait and watch to see when the fig tree in our front yard would produce some fruit. Then, once we saw the birds and squirrels chowing down we figured it was time to pick.

So happens we were having a family reunion right when the figs ripened so I had plenty of help from my nieces, nephews and cousins’ children (are they second cousins or cousins once removed?). And fortunately our friend and neighbor Richard was home who came right over with his ladder.

Richard arrives with ladder and handy fruit picking basket.

My youngest nephew Peter don't need no stinkin' ladder. He climbed right up the tree.

Over at Richard and Andrea's, Andrea and Seung cut of the stems in preparation for fig jamming.

Andrea introduces us to the acronym FIGJAM – Fuck I’m Good, Just Ask Me.

The figs stew for about an hour with a bit of honey. Then they go in jars and get called fig jam.

Next year around this time I’ll have honey from my own hive to add to the fig harvest. Can’t wait.

Solar Panels Are Go!

August 18, 2010

Seung and I moved into a new house in April. Ever since then I have been busy at work turning it into my green dream home. Last weekend we reached a major milestone: solar power.

This 5.4 kW solar photovoltaic system should produce most of the electricity we need to run the house. I’m stoked.

Standard Solar unloads solar pv panels from the truck.

Installation gets started and I'm surprised at how quickly the crew gets a couple rows of panels in place.

Minutes later, a bad omen? A serious thunderstorm stops installation efforts in their tracks.

But it ain't no thang, the storm passes ...

... the crew gets back to work...

... and the panels are all installed in about two hours.

The electrical work inside the house took much longer than expected, but at the end of day two I flipped the switch on the inverter and celebrated with a wind-powered Brooklyner Weiss.

This whole system will pay itself off in about five years. After that I’ll have a minimum of 20 more years of free energy guaranteed by a warranty. Right now, the incentives for solar in the District of Columbia are better than they’ve ever been. Interested in doing the same? Check out the District’s website on their incentive program right here. And if you don’t live in DC, check out this national database of renewable energy incentives.

Green America’s ‘Responsible Shopper’ Ratings of Beer Companies

July 18, 2010

Green America, the green consumer organization where I worked for almost seven years, has a program called Responsible Shopper that aggregates news and develops social responsibility profiles of prominent companies in consumer goods categories. The recently updated their profiles in the alcohol industry and there are some surprising findings.

For example, Boston Beer, the brewer of Sam Adams beers, gets a lousy C- in Labor and also in Health and Safety, and a measely C in the Environment category. I couldn’t find anything on the Responsible Shopper website describing the precise rating methodology. Although the program existed while I worked at Green America, I don’t recall their being a clear methodology for this then either. So even though I am an ardent supporter of the organization’s work, I have to wonder about the credibility of these ratings given that there is no transparent explanation of how the grades are developed.

All that said, there are some nuggets in here that will inform the sustainability-minded beer drinkers out there. An eye-opener was the fact that AnheuserBusch clocked in at #41 on the Political Economy Research Institute’s 2010 Toxic 100 Air Polluters list. Check out all the gory details right here.

Unfortunately, Boston Beer was the only craft brewer included in the Responsible Shopper breweries profile. I wonder how Sierra Nevada and New Belgium would fare if they were assessed. Knowing quite a bit about the environmental sustainability of both of these companies, I’m curious about their other social responsibility indicators such as labor and governance.

Beer In Washington DC

June 15, 2010

This has kept me busy the last couple months.

After about a six year hiatus, I am back in my old Washington D.C. neighborhood, Columbia Heights. I’ve been busy furnishing the new house, getting a solar photovoltaic array lined up for the west roof and working on a green roof for the detached garage. I planted hops on the south lawn but they have already failed. I installed a beehive in the north yard and they are doing fine so far. Long term plan is for a 20 gallon brewery in the garage. Haven’t gotten a compost bin set up in the back yard yet.

In other news, I expect the six new breweries planned in the DC area to keep me busy for the next several months. Greg Kitsock, my editor at American Brewer and Mid Atlantic Brewing News, recently posted this round up: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/all-we-can-eat/beer/beer-dcs-impending-brewery-boo.html?wprss=all-we-can-eat.

Ran into Favio Garcia the other day and he confirmed that Rhino Chasers is almost ready to open. Attended Savor last weekend and was disappointed not to find a single organic beer. But breweries with other sustainability efforts had a presence, such as Sierra Nevada with its all-estate grown beer, New Belgium with its all-around reputation for operational sustainability, and a number of smaller breweries with various sustainability efforts.

In the next week or two I expect to sit down for a beer at the new Meridian Pint, a mere two blocks from my new house. In a future post I’ll have to do a run of the growing raft of good beer bars in Columbia Heights. With its commitment to all-American and all-draft, Meridian Pint promises to top the list.

America’s Original Organic Beer Is Hitting the Long Trail

February 20, 2010

It became official last November. Two of Vermont’s oldest craft breweries are coming together. Long Trail Brewing Co. is purchasing Otter Creek Brewing Co.

Otter Creek has produced the Wolaver’s line of organic beers since 2002 when the Wolaver family bought the brewery and Morgan Wolaver took hold of the reins. I can’t find a public statement from Wolaver and a query to one of Otter Creek’s sale s reps only yielded a press release. I’m so curious about Morgan’s reasons for selling, but the result should be fine. Long Trail has a long history in Vermont and there are some indications that they have an environmental commitment. Their ECOBrew website describes some of their environmental initiatives. Most of it is fairly commonplace activity at breweries these days but it is good customer education.

Mike Gerhart, formerly of Dogfish Head Brewing, came on board as Otter Creek’s new head of brewing last year and he has been cranking out some fine new brews. Check out this video in which Mike talks about Otter Creek’s commitment to organic brewing and supporting small farmers.