Farm-to-table is not a one-way street. Denizens Brewing Co. in downtown Silver Spring is proving that.
The farm-to-table concept and phrase is all the rage on today’s culinary scene. It denotes an approach to cooking and dining that makes use of food that is locally produced, characteristic of a local region’s climate or history, or both.
The reverse dynamic also exists. Dining establishments or processors can complete the local consumption loop by giving leftover materials back to groups that can use them. Many restaurants undertake this kind of action when they donate extra food to local homeless shelters and food banks.
But Denizens Brewing Co., a brewery and tap room in Silver Spring, takes a more literal spin on the idea, supplying spent grain used in brewing back to local farms, which then use it for animal feed.
It’s just one of the ways Denizens is making downtown Silver Spring, and the rest of Montgomery County, a little more sustainable.
“We wanted to create a place where everyone could have great craft beer,” said Jack Basso, Denizens’ marketing and events manager. “And one of the things we wanted to do as a part of that was be sustainable and environmentally friendly.”
That can be a challenge in a facility that houses a 7,500-square-foot working brewery and a 3,000-square-foot beer garden. But its size also affords opportunities. For example, according to Basso, motion sensors on all light fixtures save substantial energy and “thousands of dollars” every month.
Denizens leaders also took advantage of the Pepco C&I Energy Savings Program to offset the costs of installing high-efficiency LED lights in all its interior and exterior fixtures.
Some of those lights are Edison bulbs, a kind of light that has an antique-style appearance, as the lighting coils inside the bulb are larger and more visible than normal. These bulbs, while not LED, still serve as conversation starters on lighting.
“We get questions from customers on the lighting,” Basso said. “The Edison bulbs are visually stimulating and people want to know more about them.”
Denizens has several different environmental measures in its portfolio. One of those is an aggressive commitment to recycling. That may not seem abnormal at a glance, but it’s easier said than done in the hospitality industry.
“Lots of restaurants don’t do a lot of recycling at the back of the house,” Basso said. “If we see an employee tossing something [recyclable] in the trash, we go to them and say ‘that’s not what we do here.’ We all evolve as our operations evolve.”
Its commitment to the local, however, may be where Denizens has the greatest impact. When a restaurant buys food from local growers and suppliers, it saves energy by reducing shipping and storage needs and helps preserve local farmland and green space. Smaller local farms also tend to use fewer fertilizers and pesticides, which can harm the environment.
“We source locally whenever possible,” Basso said. “We’re always looking for new vendors, and that helps us cut down on our footprint.”
Denizens goes a step further with its spent grain program. Every week, Denizens gives 4,000 -7,000 pounds of the stuff to local farmers free of charge for animal feed.
“Farmers come and pick it up every week,” Basso said.
Spent grain also has human applications. Ever had pork belly on spent grain toast?
“It’s like any other bread, but it has a unique texture,” Basso said. “It’s really firm and crisp as a toast. It has a very nutty flavor.”
Moving forward, Basso said Denizens will continue to seek out new and innovative ways to be green.
“We’re constantly ready to evolve,” Basso said. “Sometimes it might be a little more expensive, but it’s worth it.”
Denizens Brewing is a strategic partner of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.
By Scott Harris, Freelance Writer. Read Scott’s other posts on the benefits of environmental peer pressure, birds and climate change, eco-friendly ice rinks, residential solar, and congregational rain gardens.