26 Spirits for a Sustainable Happy Hour

Research from the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) on the carbon footprint of spirits finds that a single 750 milliliter bottle of liquor produces 2.75 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2). This is equivalent to burning a third of a gallon of gasoline for every bottle. As consumers think more critically about the effect of their consumption patterns on the planet, breweries, wineries, and distilleries are working to make their products more sustainable.

Recent consumer data from GlobalData analyzing trends shaping the spirits and wine sector show that 34 percent of global consumers favor sustainably and ethically sourced ingredients for their beverages.

And Richard Betts, Founder of Sombra Mezcal, says that there are benefits that extend beyond economic impact as companies appeal to sustainability-minded consumers.

“When you take the time to evaluate your business from the perspective of ethics and sustainability, it forces you to have a mindful eye for detail, and that generates a lot of positive spillover throughout your process,” Betts tells Food Tank. According to Betts, “treating people and the planet better is just a happier and less stressful way to operate!”

In Brazil, a cachaça distillery is forgoing traditional sugarcane production, which can harm workers and degrade the soil. In Mexico, tequila and mezcal distilleries are cultivating organic agave for their products and avoiding artificial fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. One Vietnamese brewery is pioneering the first ciders made from local, organic apples sourced from the northern Vietnamese highlands. And in India’s Arunachal Pradesh region, a winery has crafted the first locally-harvested, organic kiwi wine.

Food Tank is highlighting 26 breweries, distilleries, and wineries, and more working to craft delicious alcoholic beverages that help raise consumers’ environmental consciousness, shift away from harmful production practices, and support local economies.

1. 4 Copas, Mexico

Created in Amatitán, Jalisco, Mexico, Tequila’s birthplace, 4 Copas produces a 100 percent organic agave Tequila. The company sources agave from organic crops and does not use chemicals during any part of the tequila production process. Farmers cultivate the agave without any pesticides, fungicides, or chemical fertilizers. The crops require manual cleaning throughout the planting stage and until harvest. 4 Copas’ agave has received organic certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the European Union (EU).

2. Beam Suntory, International

With global headquarters in the United States, Beam Suntory operates distilleries around the world. The company has set a number of sustainability goals including reducing water usage by 50 percent per unit produced and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030. Their 2040 goals include working only with suppliers that use sustainable practices. Beam Suntory has also launched water sanctuary programs around its two largest distilleries. These programs work to preserve water quality while protecting the natural environment and restoring wildlife habitats.

3. Broken Shed Vodka, New Zealand

New Zealand’s Broken Shed Vodka takes inspiration from the Māori concept of Kaitiaki, or guardianship of the  people, lands and planets. The company distills its vodka with pure water sourced from a Northern geothermal system and a Southern natural filtration source. The vodka is also triple distilled with whey protein from grass-fed cows, and does not contain added sugars or sweeteners.

4. Brunehaut Brewery, Belgium

Brunehaut Brewery is the European Union’s first B Corp certified brewery and aims to have a positive impact on the people and planet. Brunehaut produces 100 percent organic craft beers with raw materials sourced locally and regionally. The brewery’s barley comes exclusively from Belgium, unless weather intervenes, and hops come primarily from Germany and Belgium. With a commitment to limiting its environmental footprint, the brewery also ensures a decent income for farmers who deliver the local, organic grains. The brewery crafts its beers with mostly renewable energy from its 350 rooftop solar panels.

5. Dry Farm Wines, United States

As a wine merchant, Dry Farm Wines sources natural wines that contain zero additives and were produced through organic farming practices. To meet the company’s standards, growers must avoid chemical spraying and advanced tilling to protect the soil and forgo irrigation—a practice known as dry farming—which helps to save water and increase the health of crops. Together, these sustainable production practices also help to support biodiverse ecosystems. Dry Farm Wines reports that their growers farm roughly 7 percent of all organic vines in Europe and they have sourced from more than 600 small family growers who make their wine by hand.

6. Dulce Vida Tequila, United States

In Texas, Dulce Vida Tequila aims to collaborate with the local agave-growing community they work with in Mexico while protecting the environment throughout all stages of their production process. Dulce Vida avoids the use of herbicides, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), to grow their organic agave. To further avoid harmful practices, the company implemented a biocompatible waste program. This system divides fibrous waste and liquid by-products, treats them, and then composts the waste to create nutrient-rich soil in the local farming community.

7. Ernest Cider Co., Canada

Based in Ontario, a husband and wife team founded Ernest Cider Co., Canada’s first B-Corp certified cidery and the first to be Bullfrog Powered, using clean, pollution free energy for their business. Ernest Cider Co. sources their apples, honey, and other fruits from local Ontario farmers. The company also partners with organizations to support bee health research and awareness initiatives, recognizing that bees play a vital role in food security. Ernest Cider Co. never dilutes their cider with water, which limits wasteful water use and reduces their impact on the local supply of fresh water.

 8. Fetzer Vineyards, United States

Fetzer Vineyards is a B Corp certified company and the first winery in the U.S. to receive CarbonNeutral certification. Using a combination of practices, they work to monitor moisture levels of their grapes and soils to ensure they don’t waste water. They also power their facility through the use of rooftop solar panels, supplemented by additional renewable energy sources. According to the company, in 2019, they saved enough energy to power roughly 73 homes for one year through the use of renewable sources.

9. Flor de Caña, Nicaragua

Flor de Caña crafts and ages the world’s only Carbon Neutral & Fair Trade Certified spirit at the base of the San Cristóbal Volcano, the tallest and most active in Nicaragua. Aged naturally in bourbon barrels for up to 30 years, Flor de Caña does not add artificial ingredients or added sugars. Flor de Caña has been in the business of producing spirits for over 130 years and distills its rum with 100 percent renewable energy, capturing all carbon dioxide emissions during fermentation. The family company has also planted 800,000 trees since 2005 and pledged to plant more than one million trees by 2025. In 2021, Flor de Caña won the Distillery Sustainability Award and the “Ethical Award” in the Spirits Business Awards.

10. Founding Spirits, United States

Majority-owned by family farmers in the U.S., Founding Spirits produces vodka, rye, bourbon, and amaro. In 2009, the company began producing their own spirits and in 2016 they opened a small-batch distillery in Washington D.C. As source-conscious producers, they take care with the products they use, including wheat from their co-owners, the North Dakota Farmers Union. Founding Spirits has received multiple industry awards for their products. They are also part of Farmers Restaurant Group, which operates a number of restaurants committed to environmentally-friendly practices. 

11. Inman Family Wines, United States

California-based Inman Family Wines, engages in environmentally responsible farming practices and natural winemaking techniques to protect the local Russian River Valley. The family-owned winery only uses organic fertilizer, spreading compost under the vines, and brewing compost teas from food scrap compost. The winery also uses worm castings to create an easily assimilated bio-fertilizer rich in nutrients for the soil. As a form of natural pest control, Inman Family Wines provides homes and resting places throughout the vineyard for predators such as owls and other birds of prey. To further promote a healthy ecosystem, the family plants permanent cover crops and practices no-till farming, which mitigates soil erosion and serves as a habitat for beneficial insects. 

12. Koskenkorva Vodka, Finland

Located in the village of Koskenkorva in Southern Ostrobothnia, the Finnish vodka brand produces the first vodka in the world made entirely from regeneratively-farmed barley. All the barley from its Koskenkorva Vodka Climate Action product comes from the Setälä-Eerola farm in Southern Finland. The farmers cultivate their barley fields according to the regenerative farming criteria of the Baltic Sea Action Group and Carbon Action Platform. To foster long-term environmental action, Koskenkorva aims to offer training to all of their contract farmers in regenerative farming practices by 2025.

13. Lubanzi Wines, South Africa

Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Lubanzi Wines is a Certified B Corp, Fair For Life Fair Trade Certified, and Climate Neutral Certified. Lubanzi Wines only works with farms that are Integrity and Sustainability Certified, which guarantees both sustainable grape production and manufacturing practices. As a social enterprise, the winery is also dedicated to ensuring their workers earn a fair wage in good working conditions. The winery donates 50 percent of their profits to the Pebbles Project, an NGO that works with low-income families who live and work on South Africa’s wine farms.

14. Molson Coors, United States and Canada

Molson Coors is a beverage company behind brands including Coors, Blue Moon, Sol, Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, and La Colombe Coffee. Using the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a guide, they have a number of sustainability goals for 2025 around water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and packaging. To date they have reduced water used to grow barley by almost 11 percent, reduced carbon emissions in their direct operations by 24 percent and made more than 99 percent of their packaging reusable, recyclable, and compostable. Molson Coors also works with producers to track sustainability metrics and ultimately use this data to help them reduce their environmental impact.

15. Naara Aaba, India

In 2017, Naara Aaba launched in Arunachal Pradesh, India to revive the local farming community by making wine out of local, organically harvested kiwis. Naara Aaba is India’s first organic kiwi wine and the country’s first certified organic wine. Founder Tage Rita sources the organic kiwis from the Kiwi Growers Cooperative Society Ltd. in the Ziro Valley, which includes approximately 300 farmers. Naara Aaba is mindful of the natural harvest season, as the kiwis are only harvested once a year between October and November.

 16. Neumarkter Lammsbräu, Germany

For more than 30 years, the organic German brewery Neumarkter Lammsbräu has followed an ecological purity law, sourcing only barley, wheat, and other grains that are produced without chemical pesticides or artificial fertilizers. Neumarkter Lammsbräu also produces its own malt from single-variety, organic grain. The water used in their brews comes from their own mineral spring protected from contamination and all raw ingredients are locally sourced. The brewery built the first warehouse for organic grain in Upper Palatinate in collaboration with the farmers they work with. Around 170 organic farmers have joined their producer association for brewing organic raw materials.

17. Novo Fogo, Brazil

Brazil’s coastal rainforest and the world’s second-largest Biosphere Reserve, Floresta Atlântica, hosts Novo Fogo, an organic cachaça distillery. Cachaça is made from fermented sugarcane juice, and Novo Fogo processes their sugarcane minimally and commits to a zero-waste process. Novo Fogo does not use chemicals to grow their sugarcane and received organic certification from the USDA. The distillery’s location on a slope allows liquid to flow from one room to another, forgoing the use of motorized pumps. Committed to protecting the forest’s animal and plant diversity, Novo Fogo also harvests cane by hand from their organic fields.

18. Procera, Kenya

Distilled in Nairobi, Kenya, at 1638 meters above sea level, Procera is the world’s first gin to use an African juniper species, Juniperus Procera, which the company harvests just 70 kilometers from their distillery. They also partner with Kijabe Forest Trust, an organization working to protect Kenya’s Kijabe Forest from poachers by working with local communities to collect the native juniper. The company also commits to planting a juniper tree for every bottle of gin it sells.

19. Remelluri, Spain

Owned, grown, made, and bottled on a single property in the northern Spanish province of Álava, Remelluri’s Rioja wines are an ode to Basque heritage. The winery follows organic farming principles, never using chemicals. Using an integrated system of agriculture, Remelluri plants almond, peach, fig, and olive trees to complement the vineyard, and also maintains a rich and productive native bee colony. Founder Telmo and Amaia Rodríguez helped launch a nonprofit organization, Futuro Viñador, which aims to preserve biodiversity and the socio-cultural environment of the region.

20. Sài Gòn Cider, Vietnam

As Vietnam’s first organic craft cider, Sài Gòn Cider has received numerous awards and has reached international markets across Vietnam, Cambodia, France, and Hong Kong. The cider does not contain any added sugars, artificial sweeteners, or flavors, and uses 100 percent natural juice from organically cultivated fruits. The company sources ingredients locally, crafting brews with mèo apples from the northern Vietnamese highlands.

21. Sipsmith, United Kingdom

Based in the United Kingdom, this gin company is working to reduce its environmental footprint by cutting waste, transitioning to renewable energy sources, and reducing its on-site water consumption. The company reports that they have reduced their general waste by 70 percent, equivalent to 0.9 tonnes each month, and have collected 4.5 tonnes of food waste. They also switched to using electricity produced by hydropower and ,through a partnership with the Carbon Trust, they are evaluating their carbon footprint to set targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

 22. Sombra, Mexico

Sombra crafts sustainable mezcal made from Espadín agave, hand-harvested in the Oaxacan Sierra, Mexico. The company’s mezcal production begins with organic agave, which are then smoked with oak sourced from certified sustainable tree farms. Sombra sustains long-term relationships with local farmers and purchases agave at fair market prices. In 2019, the Mezcal Institute named Sombra the Leading Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Mezcal Company.

 23. Symington Family Estates, Portugal

For more than 130 years, the Symington family has produced premium ports and wines with an attention to maintaining a healthy ecosystem and supporting local communities in the Douro Valley. The family winery received B Corp certification and is working toward achieving zero carbon emissions, fostering and protecting biodiversity, practicing sustainable viticulture and winemaking, and supporting local ecosystem regeneration. The winery’s organic farming, cover-cropping, terracing, and forest regeneration help to support the quality of the land and ensure greater biodiversity. To conserve water, Symington Family Estates has implemented a continuous improvement project aimed at reducing the amount of water used in the winery.

24. The Apiarist, United Kingdom

The Apiarist is a family business and environmental project that produces honey-infused gin. The founders, Alex and Natalie Conti, launched the business on the home apiary in Lichfield. What began as a way to protect bees through their bee forest and pollinator-friendly planting scheme soon turned into an enterprise creating eco-friendly spirits with their surplus honey while continuing to foster local biodiversity.

 25. Toit Brewpub, India

The Bengaluru-based Toit Brewpub uses locally-sourced and seasonal fruits like jackfruit and fresh mangoes to craft their beers. In 2018, Toit created the finger millet-based Namma Beeru Ale for the Organics and Millet Festival in Bengaluru, India, a two-week Millet Beer Festival. Toit’s use of local ingredients like millet also supports local economies, and the brewers provide farming communities with the spent grain from their beers to use as cattle fodder.

26. Yamatogawa Brewery, Japan

The Yamatogawa Brewery has brewed Japanese sake for nine generations, using organic sake rice grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Several varieties of organic sake rice used are all grown locally on the brewery’s own farm. Yamatogawa brews its sake with local spring water from a mountain that forms part of a range spread across three prefectures of Fukushima, Yamagata, and Niigata. Along with using local ingredients, Yamatogawa worked to generate renewable energy within the brewery and become energy self-sufficient following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

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Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Abreu, Unsplash

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