from our contributing editor, Stephanie Georgieff
In this era of financial challenges, issues such as sustainability are often dismissed
as too expensive or unrealistic in the business realm. As many traditional forms
of employment are no longer viable, many displaced workers are becoming
entrepreneurs in the artisan food and beverage industry with amazing results. One
such business that combines both sustainability and emerging food industries
is Ritual Brewery in Redlands California. Cicerone Owen Williams and Home
Brewer Steve Dunkerkin came together to create a craft brewery. Dunkerkin is a native Redlander and son of a farmer, who lived in Northern Italy. He met Slow Food there, and was further inspired by Slow Food Nation in the Bay Area in September of ’08. Steve participated in the founding meetings of Slow Food Redlands, and has integrated Slow Food ideals in every aspect of Ritual Brewery.
The Tafelbier (a Belgian enkel), the Wit's End (a Belgian White Witbier), the Extra
Red (an American red) and the Hellion (a Belgian golden strong ale) are their new
releases. When Citrus is incorporated in the brews, it is locally sourced. Water in
the fermenting and cooling containers is recycled, and most of the brew equipment
has been salvaged from larger breweries no longer in service. The tasting tables
are made from recycled bowling lanes, and the wall dividers were salvaged from
grocery stores in Los Angeles. One of the most amazing practices at Ritual is to give
their spent grains to local cattle and poultry farms. Brewing involves lots of grains,
and after the fermentation process, the “spent grains” are often shipped to landfills
creating ozone destroying gas. Ritual found some floundering small dairy and beef
farmers who could not afford rising feed prices in the area and let them pick up the
spent grains on a regular basis. This practice has allowed these family farms to stay
alive in a very difficult farming climate, while reducing waste from the brewery.
Owen Williams teaches brewing classes at Cal Poly Pomona, so Ritual will have
an emphasis on taste and fermentation education. Ritual has paired up with Farm
Artisan Foods in Redlands, a local organic farm to table restaurant, to do food and
beer pairings. Outside the brewing plant, a lone hops bush has been flourishing. Co-
founder Steve Dunkerkin plans to have more herbal plants and citrus trees for their
upcoming brews, making locally sourced products, literally in front of the office.
Ritual combines the true art of artisan craft breweries and sustainable business
practices of reducing waste, recycling of resources and reusing fermentation tanks
and building materials in its physical plant. It also is bringing much needed jobs and
revenue to the San Bernardino Valley, and has helped to save family farms. Most
customers will only know Ritual produces really great Beer, but what enhances the
experience for me is knowing the yummy brews have a very small carbon footprint.