Patagonia, Inc. is best known for their outdoor clothing and gear. But according to their mission statement, “We’re in the business to save our home planet.”
“With our apparel, maybe we can get to zero impact on our planet,” says Paul Lightfoot, general manager of Patagonia Provisions. “But food can be grown with regenerative agricultural practices; it can actively make things better.”
Patagonia Provisions was established as a division of Patagonia to promote regenerative agriculture and to promote food and beverages made from regenerative crops. “Eating is activism,” says the Patagonia Provisions website.
Because of the work of Patagonia Provisions, along with other interested parties, drinking beer is one step closer to being good for Earth. Patagonia Provision has partnered with the Land Institute, a non-for-profit founded in 1976 to promote perennial grain crops and polyculture farming solutions, and eleven of America’s best breweries to promote beer made from Kernza.
Why Kernza Could Be The future Of Beer
“Modern grain agriculture is in places where natural ecosystems built the soil,” says Tammy Kimbler, chief communications officer at the Land Institute. “So why do we now have these agricultural systems that essentially operate like mines, extracting that soil?” Barley is not native to North America, so the Land Institute has been domesticating native plants that are restorative for the local ecosystem.
Kernza is based on intermediate wheatgrass, a sod-forming perennial grass. As a perennial, not only does it use less fuel and labor on the farm, but its 12-foot-deep root system retains soil, water and nutrients. Plant roots are also the basis of a microbiome in the soil. That microbiome is destroyed each year with annual crops like barley and wheat, but since Kernza is perennial, the root system and microbiome remain undisturbed.
Kernza is higher in oil and lower in starch than traditional brewing grains. Starch is the food for yeast to create alcohol, so Kernza can only form a portion of a beer’s grain bill – typically about 15 percent – but those oils in Kernza are a source of flavor.
Drink Kernza Beers
“It makes really, really good beer,” says Lightfoot. “With our products, it’s not just environmental. It has to also be of high quality.” In that vein, Patagonia Provisions has partnered with eleven of America’s most highly-regarded craft breweries to launch the Kernza beer project. Each of these eleven breweries was selected for their brewing skill and history of environmental stewardship:
Allagash Brewing Company — Allagash was founded in 1995 in Portland, ME and is best know for their Belgian-style Allagash White, the first beer Rob Tod brewed when he founded the company. Allagash is a Certified B Corp and supports social justice, local water quality and local farmers, buying over 1 million pounds of Maine-grown and Maine-malted barley every year.
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. — Arizona Wilderness is known for their unique regional beers, made from local ingredients such as prickly pears, pine needles and mesquite. The base of every brew is Arizona barley from Sinagua Malt, a company that transitions farmers away from more-water-intense crops like corn, saving millions of gallons of water.
Aslan Brewing — Like Allagash, Aslan is another Certified B Corp brewery. Aslan is based in Bellingham, WA and uses local, responsibly-farmed ingredients to make its certified-organic beers. Every aspect of the brewing process meets rigorous organic standards, and the brewery itself is built from recycled materials.
Bang Brewing — Bang has been a fixture in the St. Paul, MN in 2013. Bang uses 100% organic ingredients and is housed in a giant, wind-powered steel grain bin, custom-designed to minimize water and energy use. Bang has brewed more beers with Kernza than any other brewery.
Hopworks Brewery — Hopworks was founded in 2007 in Portland, OR. It was the first Certified B Corp brewery and the first Salmon-Safe brewery in the Pacific Northwest. The brewery uses organic barley in nearly all of its beers and made the first-ever Kernza beer in 2016.
Maui Brewing — Maui is Hawaii’s largest craft brewery, founded in 2005. It is the first off-grid brewery in the United States, drawing all power from solar panels, batteries and biodiesel. Maui recycles nearly everything, including carbon dioxide from brewing, to reduce carbon emissions. As a central part of its community, Maui also spearheaded relief efforts after the Lahaina wildfire.
Odell Brewing Co. — Odell was opened by brewer Doug Odell, his wife Wynne and sister Corkie in 1989, and was the first craft brewery in Fort Collins, CO, now a craft brewing hotbed. Odell is known for inventive brews and charitable giving. Odell actively seeks to shrink its environmental footprint, including successfully cutting water use in half.
Rhinegeist — Cincinnati’s Rhinegeist recycles plastic grain bags, aluminum, scrap metal, plastic film and spent grain and constantly whittles away at its energy and water usage.
Russian River Brewing Company — Russian River is world famous for their cult-favorite Pliny the Younger IPA, released once per year, and many other award-winning beers. Russian River’s original brewpub in Santa Rosa, CA is the destination of many beer pilgrimages, and they have a production facility in Windsor, CA.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. — Sierra Nevada was founded in 1980 in Chico, CA with recycled dairy equipment. Founder Ken Grossman brewed a hoppy Pale Ale that helped put the craft beer revolution into high gear. Sierra Nevada is now the third-largest craft brewery in the United States and a leader in recycling, composting and solar power, winning multiple accolades for their environmental stewardship.
Topa Topa — Named after a nearby mountain range, Topa Topa is based in Ventura, CA. Topa Topa makes beers for its community of surfing, climbing and biking outdoor enthusiasts served through their taprooms in Ventura, Ojai, Santa Barbara and Camarillo.