At Capital Brewery we know that no matter how good our product is, we can always make it better. When it comes to sustainability, our philosophy in business dovetails nicely with our commitment to the environment: do what’s right. Seek out every improvement. For the customer. The community. The world around us. Even the bottom line. In fact, the green choice, we’re constantly discovering, is often the best choice. It’s another step forward, a continuation of our love for Wisconsin’s heritage. We want to help preserve the state’s pristine environment.
Here’s how we’re doing it. On site
Since occupying our current building in 1985, Capital Brewery has implemented many features and processes aimed at minimizing our impact on the environment. This includes upgrading our refrigeration system. Whereas in the past the system was cooled with water, we’ve found that it’s more efficient to use glycol—an air-based approach—to get the job done. This new system conserves energy—and water, one resource any brewery must handle with utmost care. This one step also reduces our water and electrical power consumption in a big way.
What else? We took a look at the boiler we’d been using, a 40-plus year-old piece of equipment that had served us well since we produced our first beer in 1986; but we learned that we could do better. So we replaced it. Our new boiler now utilizes natural gas to produce steam more efficiently. How? Better controls. Cost-effective turbulators that increase the effectiveness of the available heat-transfer surfaces in ways that have to do with thermal properties and gas flow balance in the fire tubes.
There’s more. Take a tour of our facility in downtown historic Middleton and see our new kegging machine. We’re proud of how it looks and what it does: doubles the capacity of what we brew while reducing beer loss, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars each year. The new stuff also provides us with gallons of recovered waste water, which we now use to wash used kegs. It’s a built-in water recovery system and we love it.
Other changes to our brewing process have resulted in green gains—and production gains—that cut the time it takes to brew each beer. Capital can essentially brew a pint of our celebrated Wisconsin lager using seven pints of water now. In the past, it would have taken 12 pints of water to make the very same—naturally exquisite—beer. A fine improvement, we think.
Something else…it might seem like a tiny detail, but it has made a world of difference to us. Increased insulation on all our steam and refrigeration lines in the cold storage area gives us more control over energy loss and electricity consumption.
In our Packaging
Have you noticed a change in our look? A new color scheme. A softer background. Less ink overall. How about “the gap?” Check the bottom of a case of Capital beer next time you’re able to peek. The opening gap, where the packaging material doesn’t quite meet up with itself, is just a tad larger. That’s because we’re using less cardboard material there. An easy—but smart—fix. All those changes were done by design and with care for the environment.
This minor measurement change—using a tad less material to create that crate—provides big cost-savings and paper-saving gains. With no effect on the quality of the box.
We credit our relationship with Green Bay Packaging Inc., a company at the forefront of sustainable practices, for helping us optimize the quality and services of our packaging. Cardboard products from Green Bay Packaging contain a large percent of recycled materials that are sourced from sustainable forestry lands and the recycling of urban trees. They’re the experts, so we listened when they told us that using less material and less ink overall in our packaging would do the environment a big favor.
The gap proves that. So does the look of the six-pack container. Notice how the edges on the long sides now sit a bit lower than they had in the past. We didn’t think customers would mind seeing more bottle, especially when they learned that little shifts like these help us—and companies like Green Bay Packaging—save an estimated 167 tons a wood every year overall.
Via our Relationships
We produce nearly 15 brands of beer annually. From mainstays like Wisconsin Amber and Supper Club to specialty brews such as Jobu, all are made using Wisconsin ingredients whenever possible and utilizing state manufacturing industries. That’s on the front end. What happens after we make a beer counts, too.
Imagine all the spent grain that is left behind after our—or any beer maker’s—brewing process is over. It would be unconscionable to not put that to good use. So we contacted a local farmer and he said he’d be glad to feed it—nearly 1,000,000 lbs. of grain per year—to his herd of cattle. Problem solved!
At the Bier Garten
Come visit us, enjoy a traditionally styled lager of your choice and when you’re done, recycle your cup or can in the receptacles provided for that task in our celebrated beer garden. We want and expect you to be our partner in this effort as we continue reducing our reliance on plastic cups and responsibly dispose of recyclable paper and cardboard wherever possible.
In the Future
We have designed and implemented an Environmental Management System that will continue our efforts toward operating sustainably. It’s a continuous review of brewery operations. We call it focusing on sustainability “from grain to bottle.” Some call this taking the bull by the horns—and leading the way for Wisconsin businesses in protecting our state’s beautiful heritage.
Call it what you’d like. It’s working.