Central Coast Brewing
The Greenest Beer Maker Around
By Hilary Grant

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Benjamin Franklin

Can living green and producing great beer not only go together – but also make for a surprisingly good match?

Those familiar with Central Coast Brewing know that the answer is a resounding yes. What they might not know is that this SLO company has also consistently walked the sustainable walk ever since opening its doors about a decade ago.

Set back on upper Monterey Street a few blocks from downtown, the brewery, living-room-style tap area and small retail section are all housed in one 3,200 square-foot space. CC Brewing uses a lot of imagination, and a good dose of daily commitment, to keep its carbon footprint as small as possible.
One big way this is accomplished is by conforming to an organic standard. Simply put, this means that all the company’s beer-making processes are based on little or no waste.

So, to that end, all of the waste water is reused for many tasks, whether that means watering the landscaping or rinsing a fermenter tank. Retail distribution is also limited to a 30-mile radius; consequently, deliveries are done as often as possible via bicycle. (Clients in this latter category include Big Sky Cafe, Gus’s Grocery and The Apple Farm Restaurant and Bakery.) Regular customers are encouraged, too, to take advantage of “The Growler,” a reusable, refillable 64 ounce glass jug, only eight ounces short of a six-pack – and a whole lot less wasteful than 24 bottles, 24 caps, 24 labels, four six-pack holders and one cardboard box.

And because delivery and shipping are often processes where breweries see the most waste, the company is also now working on a joint venture with the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District and Cal Poly to distill alcohol waste into bio-fuel.

Even the creation of Central Coast Brewing began with used parts.

“I purchased all of the assets of the closed Brew Factory in l997,” says George X. Peterson (the initial stands for Xirakis, his Greek family name), owner and proprietor of CC Brewing. “Because those assets were bank-owned, I was able to make a deal on both the equipment and building lease, and get a loan at the same time.

“There were no other businesses like the Factory on the Central Coast, so my business model was basically, ‘This looks like it would be fun…’ ”

Three years later, Peterson expanded when he bought everything that belly-up Port Angeles Brewing, located in the Washington state tourist town that that brewery is named after, was planning to leave behind. “I sent my brewer up there in a Ryder truck, and we got everything but the walls. Pencils, notebooks, kegs, hoses, you name it.”

Thanks to the Internet, CC Brewing has grown a lot more in the last year.

“With stainless steel prices at historic levels, I needed to look a little farther,” explains Peterson. “So, I found a closed brewery in Nicaragua. Four 40-foot containers and an ocean later, what looked like a NASA space project gone wrong ended up in our driveway. We had stuff everywhere.”

But six months later, reports Peterson, all of the Latin American components were up and running smoothly. Possibly more significant – at least from a business perspective – Peterson says that CC Brewing was able to increase its production capacity by a staggering 400 percent. “And, because all of the parts was used,” adds Peterson, “we saved nearly half-a-million dollars.”

Perhaps the reuse project that Peterson is proudest of is a vehicle he calls the Tactical Thirst Response Unit. A l980 Mercedes Benz refrigerated truck put to work for brewery events that include weddings, parties and even funerals (“some of the best parties!”), Peterson found it on Craig’s List. “I knew it would be perfect,” says Peterson, “because we needed something that would stand out, and still be functional.”

The Mercedes truck’s unique background includes being built in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was first used in Seattle, on a McDonnell Douglas airfield. From there, it went east to Tacoma, where Big Horn Brewery operated it for deliveries. That company then sold it to the Bravo Farms Cheese Factory in Traver, between Fresno and Visalia.

“They needed beer, and we needed a truck,” says Peterson. “We ended up doing a trade.”
Indeed, trading beer for all kinds of commodities – coffee from JoeBella Coffee Roasters in Templeton, honey from Stoltey Honey in Atascadero and teas from SLO Chai, also in Atascadero – is typical of Central Coast Brewing’s template.

“People will trade a lot of things for beer,” says Peterson. “We needed a pizza oven, so we traded for beer. Need a caterer for an event? Trade beer. Want to have a nice Christmas party for employees? Trade beer.”

For those who prefer to travel the taste testing route, CC Brewing always has about 10 beers on draft, with six of these considered “core” beverages. About 300 customers, says Peterson, visit the tap room every week, sipping five samples, each about half a cup, for five dollars. (An extra buck allows them to venture into the stronger and higher alcohol beers.) It’s also here that guests can play traditional board and card games, watch a 42-inch plasma television or bring along a laptop for free WiFi. For non-drinkers and children, the brewery is experimenting with a fresh ginger ale and natural orange soda to complement the root beer it already manufactures.

At least at this point, George Peterson says that keeping it green hasn’t eaten into his profits. “Thankfully, most consumers are used to paying a small premium for a green product,” he says. “I also think that within five years, green goods will become even more common, and subsequently, even less expensive.”

Nonetheless, in a bit of an ironic twist, Peterson admits that the bigger Central Coast Brewing gets, and the more it succeeds, the harder it will be to maintain its present sustainable level. Specifically, he says, many of the green sanitation and waste disposal processes now in place will simply become unmanageable.

“But, there really aren’t any of those worries right now,” adds Peterson. “In fact, we’ve already expanded with a vision that includes a green direction – one that we’ll be able to maintain for many years to come.”

Visit Central Coast Brewing at 1422 Monterey Street, or call 783-BREW. To find out what beers are on tap, and more, log on to www.centralcoastbrew.com.