“We’re giant junkies about science and the environment.” – Kelti Baird
Meet Kelti Baird, one of the founding owners of Theoretically Brewing. In 2012, Kelti and her partner Kris Fischer began home brewing, looking for the perfect combination of grain, yeast and water to make a delicious beer. After 3 years of experimentation, they opened the first Craft Brewery in Lethbridge. Today, Kelti and the team at Theoretically Brewing are models for waste reduction and sustainability.
At the end of 2013, the province of Alberta reduced the minimum capacity requirements for beer production, and the following few years have seen the growth of many young craft breweries in Southern Alberta. In a sense, this “new” industry has given small breweries a chance to “start right” in regard to setting up an environmentally sustainable small business. Theoretically Brewing is a prime example of this.
The first step in the beer brewing process is to mash up a quantity of grain and extract the tasty sugars, proteins, and colours. These nutritious liquid parts are further processed and become the delicious beer, but the spent grain is left behind. Since day one, Theoretically Brewing has been diverting these grain by-products to local farmers for use as animal feed. And recently, Theoretically Brewing has been shipping the grain to Lethbridge’s BioGas/co-generation plant where the grain is broken down into methane gas by bacteria and burned for green energy. Kelti is proud to share that not a single batch of grain has gone to the landfill since the brewery opened, and in total they estimate that 28 800 kgs of grain has been repurposed.
Theoretically Brewing also has an internal bottle recycling program where you can bring your used bottles back for a credit towards future beer. Since opening, about 12 batches, or 6 weeks’ worth beer has been bottled into repurposed bottles.
But Theoretically Brewing has some more plans, Kelti says, “Environmental sustainability is on both my business partners mind and mine all the time, and we are constantly looking for ways to improve our efficiencies and our systems to make sure that we stay sustainable.” They plan to stay true to this by completing a major renovation to their building and hopefully becoming a completely off-grid brewery by 2022. This would involve a small solar farm, a water catchment system and possibly some wind turbines for our Lethbridge winds. While most breweries have natural gas powered brewing systems, they have an entirely electric system, and theoretically, brewing would be possible with just the energy from their renewable sources. Although this is a few years out, they’re working with a University of Lethbridge environmental sustainability business class, towards an adjusted business model.
Thanks to Kelti and the fine folks at Theoretically Brewing, we have a prime Lethbridge example of how waste reduction and environmental sustainability can take shape. Certainly, Kelti speaks truly, “you can feel good about drinking this beer.”
Written and photographed by Samuel Gerrand