In its milestone 25th anniversary year, Firestone Walker Brewing Company shows no signs of slowing down or resting on its laurels. In fact, the brewery is embracing the spirit of Earth Day by doubling down on a passion for sustainability that will help define its beers for decades to come.
“After 25 years, we still believe that we can build a brewery of the future,” says co-founder Adam Firestone.
Indeed, for the past several years, Firestone Walker has quietly been intensifying its sustainability efforts under the banner of “Brewing for Tomorrow.” These initiatives took a massive step forward earlier this year with the launch of the brewery’s new 9.7-acre solar array, which is one of the largest on-site solar arrays in the craft beer industry.
Firestone Walker’s new solar array ensures that the majority of the brewery’s beer is now made with California sunshine. The array offsets more than 3,000 metric tons of carbon emissions annually, equal to the carbon sequestered by 4,220 acres of mature forestland.
“California’s Central Coast has been our home for a few generations— we have an affection for this place and feel an obligation to treat it as well as we possibly can,” says co-founder David Walker. “Solar power gives us another reason to smile.”
In its entirety, Firestone Walker’s solar array is enough to offset 3,231 metric tons of carbon emissions annually and equal the carbon sequestered by 4,220 acres of mature U.S. forestland.
Conservation & Innovation
Firestone Walker’s sustainability efforts also include broadscale conservation practices. For example, advanced recovery systems now allow kettle steam to be captured and reused for heating wort, further reducing usage of natural gas and electricity. Brewery process water is treated on site and returned to the local aquifer. Firestone Walker also uses specialized equipment, looped systems, and engineering strategies to conserve and reuse water.
“Brewers have sought to conserve energy for centuries,” Firestone says. “The mindset is not new, but we now have tools and technologies to make gains like never before.”
That said, some of Firestone Walker’s sustainability efforts are decidedly low tech. Spent grains from the brewing process are converted into feed for local livestock. Retired tanks and other equipment in the brewery “boneyard” are repurposed into usable items such as booths for Taproom restaurant seating.
Beer Before Glory
For all of its investment in sustainability, Firestone Walker also remains intently focused on maintaining its sterling reputation for quality, which has earned the brewery numerous titles at the world’s most prestigious beer competitions.
“We’ve always stayed true to the main thing: getting the beers right,” Firestone says.
Adds Walker, “Our motto is ‘Beer before Glory’—a clumsy collection of words, which simply remind us that if we look after the beer, the rest will follow. I believe our focus on beer culture will continue to keep us grounded and give us purpose for the next 25 years.”