Pouring beer into a glass, Eagle Bay Brewing Co. Credit Ryan Murphy

Late in 2021, eleven independent breweries came together over a love of craft beer and a desire to make a difference in the local community.

They call themselves South West Brewers Alliance (SWBA). Together the breweries are overcoming common challenges faced by the industry. But more than this, they share a common goal of reducing their impact on the climate. 

Two pints of beer at an outside table at the Augusta Hotel, with the Blackwood River in the background. Credit Ryan Murphy

SWBA came about after a suggestion to collaborate on these challenges was made by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. This was all the encouragement needed for Keith Warrick, General Manager at Eagle Bay Brewing, and Iliya Hastings, Director of Margaret River Brewhouse. The pair took the lead and formed the Alliance. Joining them are nine other brewers in the South West eager to work together for the greater good of the planet. Warrick says that sustainability is at the essence of each of the individual businesses; “it plays a pivotal role in how our businesses are run, so naturally, it is a core value of the Alliance.”

Anyone that has worked with the brewing industry (though perhaps more widely it is a hospitality and services trade trait) knows how supportive your industry peers are when you’re in a pickle. And this is how Warrick and the SWBA members are approaching the climate crisis, as a community. “We are very aware of the footprint made by the brewing industry and are doing everything we can to reduce it. Us brewers are in it together. It’s a no-brainer for us to join forces so we can overcome these problems.”

The switch to renewable energy is widespread in the brewing industry. Some breweries, like Rocky Ridge, are completely powered by solar. On a visit to Beerfarm or Black Brewing Co, you will see the rooftops covered in solar panels. And a number of the breweries are implementing wastewater plans to reduce water consumption during the brewing process.

But the SWBA have even more ambitious goals. Members of the groups are innovative and forward thinking. They enjoy the challenge of finding solutions that will reduce the impact of the brewing industry. As Warrick attests, “We are surrounded by beautiful nature and so taking care of the environment is top of mind for us in the South West. It is in our DNA.”

Solar panels on the roof of Beerfarm in Metricup.

Tackling food waste

One of the greatest economic and environmental problems our planet is facing is food waste. This is having a huge stain on global food supply causing a rise in food hunger.

Fuelled by this challenge, Claire Parker from Cowaramup Brewing Company is actively changing the way that brewery waste is managed.

Parker estimates that to produce a 50L keg of beer results in about 12kg of spent grain. While many breweries in the south west are working farms that give this spent grain to their cows, or neighbouring farmers, this is not the case everywhere.

For the past two years Parker has been researching and learning about Black Soldier Flies. When farmed – yes farmed! – these flies present a solution to the global food supply problem. With the help of the fly larvae, organic waste is saved from landfill and transformed into valuable by-products, effectively ‘closing the loop’ of the circular economy.

Regional funding has allowed Parker to start her own Black Soldier Fly farm in the south west. Housed in shipping containers, the fit out will start on the Cowaramup Brewery site. After approvals have been granted the farm will be relocated to Busselton.

Labelling set up at Beerfarm in Metricup.

Rethinking packaging

Another challenge is packaging. Living and working near the coast, SWBA members know first-hand of the plastic pollution in our oceans. The innovative members are collecting and cleaning can clips so that they can be reused by the breweries, as well as looking at reusable wraps to use on the pallets to reduce the amount of plastic waste created.

There has been a huge shift in the brewing industry to use aluminium cans, as opposed to glass bottles. The advantage of cans is that they are lighter, resulting in less greenhouse gases emitted during transport.

This leads to one of the other streams of challenges addressed, Export and Logistics. Reducing the supply chain is a challenge when you are located three hours south of the major retail outlets and distribution centres. High costs of refrigerated transport and the associated carbon miles sparked the move by SWBA to consider shared loads. The breweries now share the freight loads when possible and ensure that the trucks go up to the city full.

Community Revegetation

Collaborative brews between members of SWBA and not-for-profit organisations have been effective in raising awareness in the community. The Rising Brew collab between Rocky Ridge and Line in the Sand raised almost $20k to revegetate an area of the foreshore at Toby’s Inlet with 1,250 seedlings.

What can you do?

You can support the SWBA and their initiatives. Look for their beers on tap when you are in the city and when you are in the Margaret River Region visit the venues and purchase their products. The more support and voices that are added to the conversation the better the outcome. After all, we all want a sustainable planet.

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