Cover story: Drink sustainably! Get tipsy without stumbling over Mother Nature 

click to enlarge The stuff of great brewing: hops, Grains, Bottles, and yeast at The Brew Shop. (Mark Hancock)
  • Mark Hancock
  • The stuff of great brewing: hops, Grains, Bottles, and yeast at The Brew Shop.

 Congratulations! You made it halfway through the week, and we encourage you to celebrate your accomplishments.

In fact, here’s an accomplishment you can toast to right now: Drinking more responsibly. By that, of course, we mean that you can imbibe with the assurance that you’re helping make our city more beautiful by making it sustainable, greener and more fun. 

From state-made brews to recycling programs, booze fans and businesses now often work in tandem to save precious resources. From packaging to brewing techniques and even recycling programs, now it’s even easier to feel good about your night out with friends.

The libations you choose could impact your environment in friendly ways. The principles of drinking green are so simple that you can start living by them right now.

click to enlarge Anthem Brewing Company's brewer Will Perry moves used mash from the fermentation vessels. (Mark Hancock)
  • Mark Hancock
  • Anthem Brewing Company's brewer Will Perry moves used mash from the fermentation vessels.

Local is lovely

The best thing you can do for the planet, and OKC, is buy local. The closer to home the brewery or distillery is, the less of an impact its manufacture and delivery has on the environment. Area brewers work to reduce their environmental impact in a variety of ways.

“We started in 2009, and when we got our start, sustainability and our carbon footprint was something we were always conscious of,” JD Merryweather said.

He is co-founder and PR and marketing director of COOP Ale Works, 4745 Council Heights Road.

Its founders devoted themselves to crafting delicious, Okie brews that have a minimal impact on the environment.

“Every choice that the brewery made had to do with the bottom line: Is it good for the company? Is it good for the planet? And always, if it’s good for the environment, it’s good for the company,” Merryweather said.

Roughtail IPA (Provided)
  • Provided
  • Roughtail IPA

Cheap and responsible

When you run the numbers, sustainable and environmentally responsible practices make sense. These sentiments were expressed at each area brewery and distillery we visited.

Blaine Stansel, CEO and founder of Roughtail Brewing Co., 1279 N. Air Depot Blvd., Midwest City, explained environmentally sound choices are almost always cheaper, too.

“We’re always trying to lower our cost, and anytime you use extra water … extra energy, that’s going to cost you and it’s just not being responsible,” Stansel said.

There are several practices that many of brewers here have in common, including recycling aluminum kegs, canning rather than bottling, using steam heat for their water and making sure the used grain from the brewing process makes its way to area farmers. The grain, which still has plenty of nutrition, is a supplement for farm animal feed. COOP gives its spent grain to an area goat farmer.

“In California, brewers actually sell it to farmers. There’s such a demand for it, they can actually make a profit,” Merryweather said.

Anthem Brewing Co., 908 SW Fourth St., gives its spent grains to a pig farmer in Norman. Owner Matt Anthony also uses recycled whiskey and brandy barrels in his aging process.

He also has enormous reclaimed foudres — the large, upright barrels used to age wine — for aging beers. Anthem also had its brewery plumbed to recycle runoff water from the initial step in the brewing process.

Packaging is critical when it comes to curbing waste and encouraging sustainability. The brewers we talked to package in cans for two reasons: It is the ideal container for beer and it is easily recycled.

“They are easy to transport, you can take them to the lake [or] to the public pool, and you can always find somewhere to recycle them,”  Merryweather said. “We kind of started the canning trend in the metro, and we’re proud of that.”

No matter how conscientious a brewery or distillery might be, it can be challenging for them to find local grains, especially hops.

“You also need to keep in mind that hops determine the flavor of the beer you are making in a major way, and most of them grow along the same latitude and longitude,” Anthony said. “The Pacific Northwest and Germany are on the same latitude, for instance, so we do have to ship ours in.”

“When you are making beer in any great quantity for a product to sell, you need consistency,” he elaborated. “The most complete answer I get is that, especially with hops, the growing season is so inconsistent here that you never end up with the same results twice.”

Jarrett Janko with kegs of Bourbon at Scissortail Distillery. (Mark Hancock)
  • Mark Hancock
  • Jarrett Janko with kegs of Bourbon at Scissortail Distillery.

Making the hard stuff

The most noteworthy difference between brewing and distilling is that with distilling, there is little waste. Also, the carbon footprint of is smaller because state distilleries are small-batch operations and the process itself uses fewer energy resources.

Distilleries use steam to quickly and efficiently create and maintain heat, and it’s safer than using an open flame.

“We use a boiler system that suits our purposes,” said Hunter Merritt, founder of Prairie Wolf Spirits. “In fact, that energy can [also] be reclaimed for other heating or cooling.”

Prairie Wolf Spirits, 124 E. Oklahoma Ave. in Guthrie, makes Prairie Wolf Vodka, DARK coffee liqueur and its newest addition, Loyal Gin. DARK is created with Oklahoma-roasted Kona coffee beans. For Loyal, Prairie Wolf teamed with t, an urban tea house to create a gin with a custom botanicals blend and green tea.

Scissortail Distillery, 2318 N. Moore Ave., in Moore makes four choices of premium liquors: Scissortail Bourbon, Oklahoma LandRum, Black Kettle Gin and Scissortail Rye Whiskey.

Much like the beers we mentioned previously, you can find these spirits at local package stores, bars and restaurants, including Scratch Kitchen & Cocktails, 132 W. Main St., in Norman and 51st Street Speakeasy, 1114 NW 51st St.

(Christopher Street)
  • Christopher Street

The commandments of drinking green:

Drinking green is easier than you might think.

click to enlarge Buy local: Alexander Supertramp from Black Mesa (Provided)
  • Provided
  • Buy local: Alexander Supertramp from Black Mesa

First commandment: Buy local.

Seek out brews at your favorite family-owned liquor store or bar. Some local breweries, like OKC’s COOP Ale Works, will soon release low-alcohol versions for sale in grocery and convenience stores.

Second commandment: Consider the packaging.

Each brewery we talked to uses 50 percent post-consumer materials in its packaging. It is also recyclable. Glass can be difficult to recycle in Oklahoma City, making cans the ideal container for your beer.

Third commandment: When you can, buy in bulk.

If you’re throwing a party, grab growlers (gallon jugs) to-go from places like Belle Isle Restaurant and Brewing Company or buy a half- or full-sized kegs. Aluminum kegs are easy on the environment: reusable and recyclable — and if you use reusable cups, there is almost no waste.

click to enlarge Josh Sylvester, bartender and everything else at The Bleu Garten, displays a recycle symbol on the bottem of one of its draft beer cups. (Mark Hancock)
  • Mark Hancock
  • Josh Sylvester, bartender and everything else at The Bleu Garten, displays a recycle symbol on the bottem of one of its draft beer cups.

Fourth commandment: Recycle.

Visit bars and restaurants that make an effort to recycle. Project Green Plate (PGP) is a local nonprofit that helps local businesses recycle by sorting and recycling for them. Individuals can help support the group by purchasing a Green Card that helps offset recycling costs and lets cardholders save money on meals at establishments that prioritize sustainability.

You can also help support their efforts by patronizing participating businesses that work with PGP: The Bleu Garten, 301 NW 10th St., and The Wedge Pizzeria, 4709 N. Western Ave.

“There aren’t really many options for recycling for bars and restaurants, a lot of it is up to the individual,” said Chris Buerger, a PGP owner.

If your favorite local bar or restaurant doesn’t participate, urge them to practice recycling in other ways. Learn more about PGP and the Green Card at

click to enlarge The Brew Shop offers everything needed to make your drinking habit more sustainable, including classes. (Provided)
  • Provided
  • The Brew Shop offers everything needed to make your drinking habit more sustainable, including classes.

Fifth commandment: Brew your own.

For the greenest, most sustainable way to imbibe, home brewing is best. It’s is also the most economically sensible commandment because you control everything from packaging to ingredients.

Aaron Cross, who teaches the beginner’s class at The Brew Shop, 3624 N. Pennsylvania Ave., is passionate about beer, and he is convinced that anyone can do it. Owner Gail White and her staff are knowledgeable and helpful and happy to explain all aspects of the craft.

Cross’ Saturday classes are part instruction, part fun conversation and always entertaining. The cozy shop also has everything for novice and advanced brewers. There are even a variety of all-in-one kits available to help you create your very own trademark brew. Imagine how impressed your friends would be with a homemade holiday gift.

For those interested in something other than beer, there are winemaking and cider kits as well. For more information, stop by the shop or call 528-5193.

Two more important things: Do your homework (It’s fun; we promise.) and pay attention.

At large festivals, ask where your trash goes, and speak up if recycle bins are not clearly marked. Speak louder when there are no recycling choices. Today, ask your local bar to commit to the fourth commandment.


Pumpkin Spice Hot Toddy

First, you will need pumpkin spice syrup. We recommend finding yours at Vintage Coffee, Blue Bean Coffee Co. or Coffee Commission.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

1 cup water 3/4 cup granulated sugar 4 cinnamon sticks, ground (or 2 tbsp cinnamon, ground) 2 1/2 tbsp pureed pumpkin
  1. Mix water and sugar in a medium saucepan over low-medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  2. Add other ingredients and simmer over low-medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Do not allow to boil.
  3. When the mixture is a smooth consistency, drain into a fine mesh strainer (or through cheesecloth) and refrigerate.
  4. Mixture is good for about a month or a little less.

Pumpkin Spice Hot Toddy

2 oz. whiskey* (Scissortail Distillery) 3/4 cup hot milk 2 tbsp Pumpkin Spice Syrup Whipped cream, to taste Cinnamon stick for garnish
  1. Add ingredients to warm coffee mug and drink!
 * You can skip the whiskey altogether, or substitute hot apple cider or coffee. In fact, the syrup really perks up coffee with cream for a morning treat.

Scissortail Distillery’s Hot Buttered Rum

2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened 2 tbsp light brown sugar A generous swig of Oklahoma LandRum Boiling water Pinch of each: cinnamon, nutmeg, ground clove, salt
  1. Combine spices and melted butter in glass.
  2. Add rum and boiling water.
  3. Serve immediately, topped with whipped cream.
Now, to enjoy the holidays in style and in good citizenship!


Print headline: Boozing for a tiny planet, OKG investigates the best ways to get tipsy without stumbling on Mother Nature’s toes

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