The Really Good Beer Guide
I’ve been doing a lot of work recently researching UK-based ethical & sustainable brewery and pub businesses. Lots of this hasn’t been published yet, but will be released over the next few months. It’s heartwarming to see the amazing work that is taking place across the UK to take extra care of people, community and the environment.
It’s been a tough time for the beer industry, with sexual harassment charges, poor treatment of employees and other unsavoury actions hitting the headlines. So to counteract the negativity, and instead of giving more air time to businesses whose behaviour I don’t like, I’ve decided to start a directory of the breweries who are doing Good Things and making Good Beer!
Who is in?
I’m not, for the moment, including vegan or gluten-free beers. That might be a separate list. Admittedly omitting isinglass from your processes arguably supports sustainability, I think many beers can be incidentally vegan without any conscious choice on the brewery’s part to make a positive change.
I am including cider makers, even though I know they aren’t breweries. But it’s my list so deal with it! I think we can applaud ethical and sustainable producers in both spheres.
With over 2000 breweries in the UK, this list could get pretty long! And I hope it does. I hope it grows over time as more people adopt better business practices. They will be making beer that is as good for the soul as it is for the palate. Now, if you know someone great that is missing, add a comment, or tell me on Twitter or via email. Also more detail about what businesses are doing is welcome.
This is a living list! I can add, and I can take away (I have a private blacklist. No, you can’t see it.) Read all about our ethical and sustainable brewery friends. Happy drinking!
Ethical and Sustainable Brewery List
Ascension Cider, Sussex
Their apples have all been rejected for sale by supermarkets. The Wildwood Series is a low intervention cider fermented directly in oak casks with wild yeasts.
Adnams donate 1% of their profit each year to support community charities. They champion local ingredients and support the natural environment by employing a beekeeper who cares for over a million bees. They are committed to using more English hops as they have a lower carbon footprint and require less irrigation. They are a founder member of Open to Everyone. Closed to Racism.
Artistraw Cider, Hereford
Growing an orchard in a wildflower meadow with rare and delicious apple varieties. While this grows, they pick from established, unsprayed local orchards and make full juice cider bottled and labelled by hand using corn starch glue with recycled paper and natural inks.
Atlantic Brewery, Newquay
A Soil Association certified organic unfined cask ale brewery based in the barn of Treisaac Farm where they grow many of their own ingredients including Cornish Green Fuggle Hops. They draw water from their own spring and use locally produced organic malt. They use solar and heat exchange to maximise energy efficiency.
Barnaby’s Brewhouse, Staverton
Organic, vegan lager, certified by the Soil Association. Spent grain fed to cows and hops used as compost at Riverford Farm. Spring water and solar power comes through the farm and wastewater is filtered back through reed beds. Bottling takes place in-house to avoid adding miles.
Beerblefish Brewing Co, Walthamstow
A social enterprise that provides training and mentoring to ex-forces personnel and gives support to computing-oriented youth training schemes and children’s organisations. They also pay all members of staff at least the living wage.
Beer Nouveau, Manchester
Rarely send any beers outside of their taphouse to minimise the carbon footprint, never use single-use packaging and use locally grown hops as much as possible.
Better World Brewing Company, Borehamwood
Brew in partnership with others, choosing not to have their own brewery building. They plant a tree for every sale they make, ensure every brew is carbon neutral and support the Orangutan Foundation to protect habitat in Borneo. Through 1% for the Planet they give at least 1% of their income to environmental non-profits.
Black Isle Brewing Co, Munlochy
Scotland’s first organic brewery. They pay up to three times as much for hops, and twice as much for barley from farms that have massively more abundant insect, plant and birdlife. They importantly help to support declining bee populations.
Blue Barrel Cider, Nottingham
Small batch cider which is the product of inner-city scrumping (my new favourite phrase.) Cider supports Summerwood, a community garden project and a range of projects for the community there, including vulnerable adults, families and young peoples’ groups.
Bluestone Brewing Co, nr Newport
The world’s first Green Key accredited brewery. They have their own water supply with reed bed filtration for waste water. The brewery and site has solar panels, living rooves, solar energy and heat exchange in the brewing process. There are lots of recycling and composting activities taking place on sit. They house community events like a local gardening group.
For every pint of beer sold, they aspire to provide 100 times that amount in clean water. This benefit is delivered via various charities around the world.
Burton Town Brewery, Burton-on-Trent
Use locally sourced ingredients wherever possible, give spent grain to local farmer to feed horses, recycle spent hops as fertiliser and source all packaging and bottles within 30 miles.
Bushel & Peck, Gloucestershire
Using unsprayed apples to make natural cider. Reviving neglected traditional orchards and supporting the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Gloucestershire Orchard Trust.
Castle Rock Brewery, Nottingham
Outline their position with a clear sustainability statement and openly commit to no greenwashing. They have been Green Certified with Investors in the Environment since 2016 for their commitment to reducing the environmental impact of their energy and water use and decreasing emissions. In 2019 they won the Visit Nottingham Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism award and work in partnership with a range of local and national nature charities.
Cloudwater Brewery, Manchester
They run an ethically conscious, human-centred business that is helping to support innovation in Northern communities. They are also notable for using their own not inconsiderable platform to help amplify the voices of under-represented groups under their Beer with Big Ideas project. See their collaboration packs in Tesco stores around the country (although these beers are brewed on their behalf by another large brewery who won’t be making this list, so you pays your money, you takes your chances).
Clyde Cider, Glagow
Forwage apples from residents of Glasgow and Clyde and use their profits to plant a community orchard.
Crumbs Brewing, Reigate
Saving waste bread by making it into artisanal beer!
DuckChicken Cider, South London
Making cider in South London from three revived Kentish orchards that are dry and unpasteurised.
Earth Station Brewing Project, London
Raise funds through their brewing to support diversity and inclusion programmes such as The Black Curriculum social enterprise who deliver Black British history education.
Eko Brewery, London
An increasing criticism of beer in the UK and beer writing is the lack of representation of People of Colour. This will certainly mean many people wish to support one of the few Black-owned breweries in the UK. Eko are producing delicious beers using what they have learned from researching traditional African brewing techniques and ingredients.
Find and Foster Cider, Huxhum
Reviving neglected traditional orchards and grafting rare varieties to replace dead trees and replenish the orchards and historic disease-resistant strains.
They are trying to reduce water use and find sustainable uses for the by-products of brewing. One example is feeding spent grain to cattle.
Freedom Brewery, Staffordshire
All of their wastewater is naturally filtered on site.
F%&k Cancer, Edinburgh
Brewed by Ride Brewing in Glasgow (see below) the F%&k Cancer Brewing Project is making beer to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Futtle, East Neuk of Fife
Soil Association certified organic brewery blending natural beers that have a real sense of place, with wild yeasts and fermentation being central to their small batch brewing.
Good Chemistry Brewing, Bristol
A female-owned business with a pub and brewery running off 100% renewable energy. Spent malt feeds local cows, all packaging is reusable and they aim to be part of an open and inclusive community.
Good Things Brewing, nr Tunbridge Wells
Good Things described themselves as the ‘first closed-loop, fully sustainable brewery.’ They were making their own power, drawing water, making spent grain into flour and using an electric van for deliveries. Their historic barn brewery was destroyed by fire after being hit by lightning in July 2021. The resulting crowdfunder hit the target within 48 hours. Watch this space to see what they are able to achieve as they rebuild their brewery.
Gyle 59, Sadborow
Spring-powered, log fed and propane-driven beers according to their website!
Hackney Brewery, Hackney
Their brewery, warehouse and office is powered from renewable energy used in efficient ways thanks to a nitrogen reclaim system, and heat exchange for example. They are members of the Living Wage Foundation paying the London Living Wage and staff go through ongoing training to help them develop. Waste grain is recycled and recycling is key with their packaging. They also work with local charities to support community events.
Ignition Brewery, South London
Ignition train people with learning disabilities – a group who are chronically under-employed. The team all learn to brew, package the beer and run the tap house. Apart from the two directors, Head Brewer and the bar manager, everyone who works in the business has a learning disability. They create great beer which people drink within the same postcode to keep the food miles down.
Immediate Brewing, Southampton
They take 100g of carbon out of the air for every can of beer they produce. They have calculated that slimming down their emissions means that each can generates about 50% the carbon you would normally expect, then the carbon reduction projects they commit to account for the rest. Don’t worry about greenwashing here, you can even visit their Brew Journal and see the independently verified record of their greenhouse gas emissions.
Kelchner Brewery, Ampthill
Kelchner reuse and recycle wherever possible, including sending spent grains to farmers and spent hops for compost. Chemical tubs and cardboard is also recycled. Plans are afoot for a new brewery which will include a wind and water turbine, solar panels and livestock on site to reduce grain mileage.
Little Valley Brewing, Hebden Bridge
Make a variety of organic beers, recycle spent grain and enjoy Soil Association certification.
Magpie Brewery, Nottingham
This microbrewery is powered by green energy, recycle their water to wash casks, waste malt is fed to cattle and waste hops are composted. Plus they offer bring your own bottle refills.
Mashionistas Brewing Company, Coventry
Using 100% renewable energy through Octopus Energy, compost spent grain at a local allotment and only make vegan beer.
Merakai Brewing Co, Framfield
A brewery that aims to connect people in an inclusive community with equality at its heart.
Norton Brewing, Runcorn
Norton use the brewing process as a way to give adults with learning difficulties pre-employment opportunities to increase skills and confidence. The bottling plant is also particularly staffed by autistic people who value the employment experience they gain from the structured activities that take place there.
Purity Brewing Co, Warwickshire
Their brewery uses heat exchange and steam capture to reduce energy consumption. Spent grain feeds Longhorn cattle and spent yeast feeds pigs. Waste water is recycled using a natural wetland reed filtration system. To support their community they support rugby (from the grass roots up) and encourage and support cycling as a sport and a greener method of transport.
Queer Brewing Project, London
A Queer-owned brewery that provides representation and visibility for LGBTQ+ people, using beer as a vehicle for social change.
Really Good Beer Society, North London
A B Corp pending business (see below) who do not have their own brewery, but find partner breweries who are independent and focused on sustainable production. They name their beers for a cause and charity partner and give 2.5% from sales to those causes.
Ride Brewing, Glasgow
A social enterprise brewery who offer employment opportunities to people with disabilities. They do lots of good things – community canning to support other small breweries, for example. Ride also make deliveries by bike, make can sleeves from cornstarch and recycle spent grain with local cattle farmers.
Ross Cider, Ross-on-Wye
Traditional family-run full juice natural cider makers who conducted the Innovative Farmers study into the use of a Shropshire breed of sheep to graze orchards.
Rull Orchard, Bickleigh
A project in permaculture encouraging the natural biodiversity of the area. Grow or source locally and sell direct to customers to minimize transportation. They have a new orchard, bee hives, wildlife pond, bird and bat boxes and logpile habitats. They don’t use pesticides or insecticides and use homegrown comfrey and nettles for fertiliser. The farm is carbon negative.
Seb’s Cider, Herefordshire
Slow matured natural cider from unsprayed orchards. Hand picked apples pressed in a low-impact cider barn and pommace fed to local cattle.
Stonehouse Beers, Oswestry
They built an energy efficient brewhouse in 2013 and actively try to save water and energy. They only make cask deliveries within a 30 mile radius. The brewery uses bottles for small pack because glass is less damaging to produce.
Stroud Brewery, Stroud
A dedicated, Soil Association approved organic brewery and the first UK brewery B Corp (see below). They only source ingredients that have a positive impact on ecosystems and the environment, and prioritise local.
Tap Social Movement, Oxford
Deeply committed to social justice, their brand was developed using prisoner artwork that needed a platform. They created a brewery and social space where they hire currently serving inmates and recently released people who need support to develop new skills, gain experience and learn about setting up their own businesses. They also offer one on one employment support.
Temperance St Cider, Manchester
Temperance St have a scrumping army who help to gather their Manchester-grown apples and foraged elderflowers and other fruit that are then used to make the ciders. This means that fruit that would otherwise go to waste is used, and the owners get some cider back in return. They make single variety and ‘estate’ ciders which are blended later. They also work with the Manchester Hop Project to add new flavours to the cider by using green hops. They never use single use kegs.
Toast Ale, London
Using surplus bread instead of virgin barley to use less land, water and energy.
Welsh Mountain Cider, Powys
Making full juice, natural cider from a museum orchard of 450 varieties of fruit trees.
Wildcraft Brewing, Norwich
They offer to swap locally foraged ingredients for beer. Sounds like a tasty deal.
What is a Certified B Corp?
Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.https://bcorporation.net/about-b-corps
What is Greenwashing?
The process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound.https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/greenwashing.asp
Female Brewers and Cider Makers
With the sexism and harassment that has been recorded in the beer industry recently, I know many of you will like to take the opportunity to support some of our excellent female brewers. Here are some breweries to look out for that have female brewers making delicious things.
- Barley Wood Orchard
- Bartestree Cider
- Bath Ales
- Brewsters Brewery
- Burnt Mill Brewery
- Cidentro Cider
- Cider Women (pan industry group)
- Cloudwater Brewery
- DuckChicken Cider
- Find and Foster
- Grazed Knee Cider
- Honey’s Cider
- Jaspels Cider
- Kniveton Cider
- Letchford Cider
- Little Pomona
- Mashionistas Brewing Co
- Meon Valley
- Naked Orchard / Ragged Stone
- Nirvana Brewery
- Nomadic Brewery
- Pomme Boots (pan industry group)
- Pressure Drop
- The Orchard Project
- Queer Brewing Project
- Stroud Brewery
- Truman’s Brewery
- Turners Cider
- Welsh Mountain Cider
- Wild Card Brewery
- Wilding Cider
- Wiper & True
Can we save our traditional orchards?
A thought-provoking piece by Chris Russell-Smith in Cider Review.
Heineken begin low carbon barley farming trials
September 2021 – Whatever you think of the big brewing conglomerates, they are spending a lot of money marketing their environmental and sustainable credentials. Heineken announced a trial this month with malt supplier Muntons and Yorkshire farmers which will take place over the autumn 2021 crop sowing.
Have I got anything wrong? Missed anything? Drop me a tweet and let me know, my DMs are open.