What is the interaction between the brewery, the farm and the butchery?
All three are working together: we did a barbecue in the butchery that used Black Radish beer; we have a liverwurst that is really a liver pâté made with 40% sweet potato content—it’s extraordinary. And the smokehouse will smoke malt for rauchbiers. So you see, we’re integrating the natural beer, the natural meat and the natural vegetables all into a group.
Our goal locally is to create a single-source distribution system for the Outer Banks, so if a restaurants wants beer, meat and vegetables, it all comes fresh on one truck. People say we can’t do that. Why? Because we’re brainwashed into believing that a beer distributor has to distribute the beer. But there’s an exemption that allows us to pierce that monopoly
We want to take it to the next stage, which is the waste cycle. Right now, our waste from Dare County travels 113 miles to a regional land fill. This was designed when fuel was less than two dollars a gallon; now it’s five dollars a gallon. There is a huge hoopla about the cost of maintaining landfills. Our goal is to go to the community and say, “Whatever is compostable, you pay us the same rate you pay that commercial guy, and we’ll pick it up. We’ll take our meat, our beer, our vegetables to your store and we’ll pick up compostables on the same trip, take it back to the farm and it becomes fertilizer on the farm. And spent grain, of course. What fool throws that away?
We have all these loops, why aren’t we using them in the food chain, with natural food going one way and waste management going the other way.
So, I picture your Johnson and Wales-trained chef who has interned with you, who then gets a prime position in a restaurant, calling you and asking what have you got? And you say, we have spring lamb, and this is our spring seasonal beer, and here’s what’s fresh from the garden.
That is the rethinking process that will take place. It’s back to the old system, where the menu is driven by what the farm produces. The first thing I did in the new building is a huge wall chart that shows every vegetable grown in North Carolina and when you can expect it in the market. The point is that if you say you will have strawberries on the menu, they must be in season and fresh.
There’s a direct correlation between food chain, quality of food and flavor. The further you go, the less flavor you have left. Beer, meat, vegetables: it’s the same story
As of January this year, North Carolina, very progressively, has mandated the recycling of glass. I attended by first ALE meeting this year with the restaurant association, and they were all up in arms about it. I couldn’t understand—I’d been recycling for 20 years—and it took me an hour or two to understand that for those 20 years, they’ve been throwing every bar bottle they had and threw it into the trash. It blew my mind.
Now, if you want an ABC license, you have to submit a form to say how you will recycle glass.
The story, however, is different. Glass has only two ingredients: sand and energy. If you recycle glass, what have you done? You have saved a pile of sand. The only way is to save the energy, not to recycle, but to reuse. That’s where you really save. We’ve reused our fliptop bottles for 20 years.
I despise six-packs. When we got our brewery going, we changed to the half-liter bottle. The reason was economic and philosophical. If you have a small brewery and you have six packs, you have to print a bottle label, a neck label, a six-pack carrier and a six-pack case. That works for Budweiser, it doesn’t work for a small brewery. You end up with $10,000 worth of packaging for one brand. That’s a disaster. We went for the 16.9 oz—the half liter bottle—for each beer. We print one label per beer, and we have one cardboard box. Thirteen labels per box. One label per bottle, one label per box.
We import these half liter bottles, and they now cost us 37 cents per bottle. My point is very simple: why do we pay the Germans 37 cents a bottle, when I would rather give that to our consumer if he gives us a bottle and we reuse it? I think we’re the only brewery that has a 100% glass reuse policy. Every bottle we sell you, we promise we’ll take it back and we’ll use it again.
That brings that loop back again.
This is not anti-corporate speech—the efficiency of the big corporations is phenomenal, I love it. If they stick to plastics, it’s great. But the problem is, when you talk about food and health and apply the same efficiency principals, it gets really scary. It doesn’t work any more.
What you’re doing is very progressive, but it’s also very old fashioned, back to basics.
When I opened the brewery in Manteo, I wanted to have a wooden paddle. I didn’t want a red light or an electric switch, wooden everything—and I was dead wrong. The technology of craft is phenomenal. We have a high tech smokehouse that is fully computerized, up to 99 programs, 14 steps per program. Just because it’s craft, doesn’t mean it’s not high tech, that it’s dungarees and straw hats and going back in time.
If I came to visit today, what would I find?
Our sausages, which are wonderful. A menu that varies by the day and the week, seasonal beers, and music. There’s your village.