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How Magpie Brewery Is Working to Improve Its Sustainability

29 August 21 words: George White
photos: Jasmin Betsy

Craft brewers are not only leading the way in terms of producing top quality beer, but also producing this beer in responsible ways. We talk to Gavin Morrison, Director and Head Brewer at Magpie Brewery, about how the industry is making progress towards becoming more sustainable...

As well as producing drinks that are delicious, refreshing and, let’s face it, one of life’s great pleasures, the craft beer industry is also taking big steps towards improving its sustainability. Whether it is this city’s own Castle Rock Brewery adopting an energy-efficient brewing process or Freedom Brewery treating its waste water and using it to benefit local wildlife, plenty in this forward-thinking sector are fully focused on caring for the world we live in. 

Another pioneer of responsible brewing is Magpie Brewery, which has been committed to protecting the planet since it was founded in Nottingham fifteen years ago. From day one, Magpie has only ever used renewable energy from the Good Energy company and has ensured all its spent hops have gone to compost. Like many other brewers, the company places a strong importance on green practices, and has embraced a number of methods to lessen its environmental impact.  

“As most brewers do, we reuse our cooling water as hot liquor to create the next brew, but we also have a policy to use as little water in the brewery for cleaning as possible,” Gavin Morrison, Magpie’s Director and Head Brewer, explains. “Some of the other simple things we have implemented from the beginning are using recyclable cardboard packaging, and using metal casks and kegs that can be used hundreds of times. 

“In addition to this, all of our delivery routes are worked out in advance to make them as optimal as possible to ensure the least amount of vehicle use. We made a conscious decision not to export our beer as it is a heavy and pollutant thing to transport around the world.

It’s important to implement all the easy things as soon as you can - we can then look at how we tackle the harder issues once the smaller things are firmly in place

“We have a couple of small projects to automate some cask cleaning cycles, which will save water and energy, and we’re also trialling a non-caustic cleaning enzyme which is better for the environment.” 

Going forward, there is still work to be done in terms of responsible brewing, with Gavin claiming the industry still has “a reasonably big impact” but, with a few small changes “lots can be done to improve”. 

Such changes include scrapping the use of isinglass (fish filings used to make the beer more clear) and adopting alternative brewing methods to cut waste. Both of these are being undertaken by Magpie, which has made all of its beer vegan and continues to expand its Bread Brew’d range - a collection of beers made from surplus bread. While taking these positive steps isn’t always easy, it is necessary to ensure the company - and the industry - continues on the right path. 

 “We’re still far from perfect, and we’d love to do many more projects,” Gavin admits. “Unfortunately, the additional costs of sustainable practices, as well as pricing competition from supermarkets and discount pub groups, means we can’t always afford to do everything all at once. But it’s important to implement all the easy things as soon as you can - we can then look at how we tackle the harder issues once the smaller things are firmly in place.”

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