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Stewart Brewery ownersIn terms of sustainability, Jo and Steve Stewart were very early adopters.

This wife-and-husband team, founders of Stewart Brewing in Edinburgh, met in the 1990s when they were studying Energy and Environmental Systems at Glasgow Caledonian University, and have been passionate advocates ever since. It’s no surprise, then, that Stewart Brewing – with its solar panels, carbon capture and long-term usage of refillable containers – is one of the most sustainable breweries in the UK.

More and more British breweries are aiming to follow in their footsteps. There’s a growing realisation across the industry that change is overdue, particularly given the resource-intensive nature of brewing. It’s being driven by consumers, too, 52 percent of whom – according to a survey carried out this year by product intelligence brand Vypr – would be prepared to pay more for an environmentally friendly beer.


Silos at Renegade BreweryThe good news for brewers is that sustainable options, while often more expensive up-front, can save money in the long run. “It makes good sense to manage resources effectively,” says Steve Stewart. “It makes sense to recycle wherever possible. It makes good sense to minimise costs by maximising your efficiencies.

“Sustainability is at the heart of our business not just because we believe in a sustainable planet, but, as a small business, why would you not?”

It can be intimidating, though, not least because it is complex. So, what can breweries do to get on the road to full sustainability? We spoke to Steve and Martin Kelly of Renegade Brewery in Berkshire, another sustainability champion, to find out.


Seek Help

It pays to have assistance. Renegade Brewery worked with a platform called Net Zero Now, established in 2021 to help small and medium-sized enterprises to get moving. “I wanted a company that would work with me but wouldn’t charge the earth,” says Martin. “They helped me create a definite roadmap for the next three years.”

There’s also funding available. Stewart secured an interest-free £100,000 loan from Resource Efficient Scotland in order to install solar panels, which – due to the huge rise in the cost of gas and electricity – have recently become a much more enticing financial option. “It’s become a two or three year payback option rather than seven or eight,” according to Steve.

Image of Renegade Brewery with solar panels on the roof


Recycle Onsite

When Martin joined Renegade just over a year ago, the brewery had three large skips outside for waste, emptied three times a week. “People didn’t recycle,” he says. “Now we have one skip and that’s emptied twice a week. Everything is recycled.”

There’s a metal skip, a glass skip, and a skip for aluminium; spent grains go off to a local farm; cardboard is recycled and baled; hard plastics are separated and recycled. “Until recently we were paying someone to take our waste away from us – now we’re being paid for some of that,” he adds.


Don’t Waste Water

Brewing uses a lot of water. Paradoxically, perhaps, that means that there are plenty of ways in which breweries can save water, from brewing to cleaning.

At Stewart Brewing, the installation of a centrifuge helped in two ways, according to Steve. “When you’re separating yeast from beer, you can either wait for it to happen naturally thanks to gravity, which takes 12 to 14 days, or you can speed things up with a centrifuge,” he says. “[With a centrifuge] You get a better yield out of your beer, and less water is thrown away – but you’re also able to speed things up, meaning you get more out of the same equipment.”

Stuart Brewery Centrifuge Equipment

Stewart Brewing is actively investigating how to harvest rainwater, an idea that’s also under consideration at Renegade. Kelly also wants to start using some water twice. “We use water to rinse bottles – which are manufactured off site – before filling,” he says. “What if that water, which is clean, could be used again – for floor washing, conveyor washing, anything?”

Other projects are a little further into the future. Stewart Brewing is investigating the potential of heat pumps for saving water. The brewing process, by its very nature, involves a lot of heating water up and then cooling it down, expending large amounts of energy in the process – but with heat pumps, thermal energy from the mash tun and kettle can be captured rather than being lost.


Save Energy

There are some easy ways to save energy and money – like a sensor switch to regulate the flow of compressed air, which Renegade uses to dry cans and bottles before they go into final pack. It turns off the air when it’s not needed. “It means you’re not burning electricity maintaining a flow of compressed air,” Martin says.

At Stewart Brewing, they’ve invested in carbon capture, which will allow them to become self-sufficient and mean they won’t need to have it transported from elsewhere. “It’s not rocket science – they’ve been doing it for years in larger breweries – but breweries of our size have never been able to do it effectively and cost-efficiently before,” says Steve.

Stewart Brewing Solar Panels



Plan for the future

One big advantage of the Stewarts’ background in sustainability came when they opened their new brewery in 2013. At the time they couldn’t afford to invest in solar panels, but they ensured the brewery was ready for them when they could. “We designed it on a south-facing slope to ensure we could benefit from solar power in the future,” says Steve.

Increasingly, sustainability is a fact of life for breweries. “Two years’ ago, if you’d not done anything, that would’ve been the norm,” says Martin. “In two years’ time if you’ve not done anything you’re going to stand out, and not for good reasons.”


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