For aircraft maintenance engineer turned brew master, Matthew Wolff has positioned Torque Brewery as an active participant in the circular economy.
Microbreweries have become all the rage, catering to a public that loves to try new brews while also supporting local business. Since 2016, Torque Brewing has grown in size and reputation with Red Line and The Witty Belgian beers both winning gold at the Canadian Brewing Awards.
The term torque refers to an engine’s rotational force, but for Matthew Wolff, VP of Operations, torque just as readily refers to how he engineered the brewery’s operations to work within the circular economy.
“Making beer is fundamentally the same as it has been for hundreds of years. We’re using a malted grain, we’re extracting starches using tempered water. Enzymes are used to convert starches into sugars. Sugars are later then digested, creating alcohol and carbon dioxide. What’s new though, is what we do with brewing’s by-products including the resulting grain mash and wastewater.”
When designing the brewery’s operations, Matthew says, “One of the biggest problems is trying to find uses for mash so that it won’t end up in a landfill. Mash has a very high nitrogen level so in the past we used it as a compost media for gardening or farming. But as our volume increases over time, the quantity of waste has also increased exponentially.”
The increase in by-product spurred further investigations into how mash can be used. “What we have done now, which is better aligned to the circular economy, is divert a lot of the mash from compost and instead offer it to farmers as a livestock feed,” says Matthew. “It still contains high protein content which makes it a great supplement for cattle or pigs. Mash can even be reintroduced back into the food industry. For instance, local baker Loaf and Honey have used mash in certain types of bread. And, when added to dog treats, mash provides protein and acts as a binding agent.”
Matthew also notes how important water is as a resource for brewers: “Normally it takes four litres of water to produce one litre of beer, so that’s a huge amount of waste that ends up going into treatment plants and eventually back into our water systems. At Torque, we try to eliminate not only the amount of water used, but we also designed a buffering system to remove solid waste and balance the ph levels before it hits the municipal treatment system.”
Sourcing ingredients locally is another element of the circular economy that Torque Brewing has embraced. “We now have Prairie Gem and Prairie Mountain Hops that are producing a large quantity of hops for breweries meaning we don’t have to ship it in,” says Matthew. “The more we order from them, the more they grow their business, and it just becomes circular. We also save on fuel and the cost of transportation. The more we can focus on utilizing what we have here in Manitoba, it bolsters our economy and all of our businesses.”
When it comes to big picture planning, Matthew is focused on reducing the company’s environmental footprint, finding ways to reduce its operating costs and invest in a more sustainable product. Matthew cites grants, from private and public sectors, as a key aid in helping explore technological advancements that support sustainability.
When it comes to facing obstacles, small companies like Torque Brewing have limited resources. “One of the biggest challenges is to utilize capital to bring in new technologies that help us participate in the circular economy, so it’s good for the environment and for our bottom line,” says Matthew, while also recognizing an increase in accessibility. “The beauty now is that with rapid growth, new technologies are more quickly going from large-scale testing to practical items that can be of use, becoming more affordable for small companies like ourselves.”
When asked about the future of the circular economy, Matthew recommends other companies get on board, stating: “I think the more companies can inject back into the circular economy, having the local economy produce components, it brings more money into the economy and makes us all more sustainable.”
Learn more about Torque Brewing.