It does defy the imagination: like all beverages in heavy containers, distribution seems like it must cancel out any efforts towards environmental responsibility lower down on the production chain. But those efforts do add up. Last weekend, I wandered by my beloved neighborhood chocolate factory and found they were having a party. A new, local “nano-brewery” was offering samples, and no, I couldn’t resist.
What’s the connection? Slumbrew, project of homebrew expert Jeff Leiter and Caitlin Jewell, uses Taza’s cocoa nibs to brew their Porter Square Porter (a nod to one of Somerville’s busier neighborhoods). In some ways, doing anything with Taza’s nibs other than eating them seems a little sad, but the resulting porter is creamy and way chocolate, with a surprisingly clean mid-palate. Delicious, though to me had more of a stout profile than a porter, lacking the signature bitterness.
Also on sample was a hefeweizen brewed with organic blood oranges (sourced from a small family grower in California) and local Massachusetts wildflower honey. I loved the porter, but I could drink this by the gallon. Literally.
A few organic and local ingredients does not a sustainable brewery make, of course. The bigger issues are certainly production and distribution. But even there, Slumbrew is thinking ahead, considering moving to canned beer for retail as a more responsible alternative to glass bottles. They’ve been thinking about ways to repurpose waste material from the brewing process, too, though haven’t come across a solution yet. Working with like-minded local businesses such as Taza has to be good for the company’s sustainability ethic: if a chocolate maker importing cocoa from South America can create a sustainable business model–which Taza has done–then so can a couple of folks making beer in Somerville.