News | Working together: how do we brew a sustainable beer?

Working together: how do we brew a sustainable beer?

Article by Linxx Media for REGIO ZAKEN

Innovating in the brewery sector is not always easy. But it is much needed in these times. Seven breweries and a wholesaler inspired each other and collaborated on a plan to brew in a more sustainable way. This happened during the CIRCO Track Beer Brewing. In this three-day training program, entrepreneurs work together to explore their opportunities in the field of circularity.

Bird Brewery, Frontaal Brewing Company, De Hollandse Pilsener Fabriek, Jopen, Oedipus Brewing, Texelse Bierbrouwerij, Brouwerij Troost, and VHC Jongens: a total of seven breweries and a hospitality wholesaler participated in the CIRCO Track in North Holland. This three-day program aims to stimulate companies in the province to engage in circular entrepreneurship and is the result of a collaboration between Jopen, Impact Hub Amsterdam, and Rabobank.

MariĆ«lle de Munnik, Business Development Manager Sustainable Entrepreneurship at Rabobank: “Our society demands less waste of resources, products that last longer, and are cleverly reused. Within Rabobank, we have the new Future Fit team. These colleagues work together with the business client to identify steps the company can take towards a sustainable future. This aligns perfectly with our mission ‘Growing a better world together’. For example, how can they reuse resources more effectively, and what about legislation concerning CSRD reporting? When I was searching for a new topic for the CIRCO Track, my Future Fit colleague advised me to have a conversation with Jopen. They expressed a desire to innovate but mentioned that a craft brewery doesn’t always have the people and resources for it. Collaboration with other breweries could further assist them. Thus, this CIRCO Track Beer Brewing was born. We bring entrepreneurs together to work on circular business models. What I find exciting is that results are immediately visible after just one session. The first barrels of waste have already been converted into value, thanks to a tip from one participating brewery to another!”


One of the participating breweries in the three-day workshop is Jopen from Haarlem. Erwin Klijn, Export Manager at Jopen, says, “The brewery was founded in 1994, and we are now the largest independent craft beer brewer in the Netherlands. In addition to a core portfolio of craft beers, we introduce new beers annually and recently also whisky.” Craft beer is beer brewed by small, independent breweries. Erwin adds, “Innovation is our focus. This innovation primarily takes place in terms of taste, but in today’s world, we must and want to consider sustainability as well.” Last year, Jopen initiated a CSR discussion within the organization. Erwin explains, “Because we were ready to take more concrete steps towards sustainability, we decided to participate in the CIRCO Track Beer Brewing.” Several reasons played a significant role in the desire to become more sustainable. “Of course, our intrinsic motivation and the societal call for sustainability, but also the looming scarcity of resources. For example, without gas, we cannot produce as we are currently set up. The availability of gas poses a strategic risk. As an industry, we need to act on that,” Erwin elaborates.

New Business Opportunities

Can we reduce beer loss during the tapping process? Can packaging be made from eco-friendly materials? Can the heat generated during the brewing process be reused? Erwin says, ‘These kinds of questions about new circular business models are much better addressed by bringing companies facing similar challenges to the table. That’s precisely what a CIRCO Track is for: the program provides the opportunity to work together and make as much impact as possible. We can help each other to outline more concretely what is needed to become more sustainable and – especially when it comes to smaller breweries – to still be viable in ten years. This collaborative approach is essential because otherwise, we’re constantly reinventing the same wheel independently.’ The training program helps participants to concretize their sustainability ambitions. Erwin continues, ‘Jopen is a larger player in the craft market, but we’ve also found that we learn a lot from each other and that it’s meaningful to tackle projects together. Moreover, we also see it as our societal responsibility to share the knowledge we’ve gained. We can only accelerate the process of sustainability by strengthening each other.’ Participants in a CIRCO Track gain access to up-to-date knowledge, concrete tools, and insight into market developments. Erwin adds, ‘There were also several speakers present, including an expert from the packaging industry who informed us about a new type of plastic made from organic materials. That’s, of course, an incredibly interesting development for us.’

Learning Process

The good news is that there are tremendous opportunities and possibilities for becoming more sustainable. At the same time, many entrepreneurs wonder which choices to prioritize first. Aldert Messemaker, Brewery Manager at Jopen, says, ‘The strength of a CIRCO Track is that the issues are formulated by the participants themselves. Then, you choose the subtopics you want to delve into further and where you see opportunities for your organization. That varies from participant to participant. This works very well because each participant picks a topic that benefits everyone. Then, everyone can focus on a specific topic, and in the end, you’ve covered seven topics that have added value for everyone. During the program, you are guided by experienced CIRCO trainers who are experts in circular design and entrepreneurship.’ The issue of beer brewing offers a multitude of economic and sustainability opportunities.


Aldert: “If you’re able to solve those issues, you enhance competitiveness and create new value for the company and its customers. At the same time, we realize that it demands a lot of inventiveness from the organization. Jopen is quite advanced when it comes to technology and techniques. However, often the most optimal solutions aren’t readily available. For example, brewing beer requires high temperatures, which consumes a lot of energy. Currently, this is achieved through gas combustion. However, that market is also evolving rapidly, so it’s possible that soon we could reach the required boiling point using a new heat pump technology. The condition is that it can be integrated into the current utilities, otherwise, it would be a very costly investment. It’s a complex topic, but also very enjoyable and necessary to engage with. Change doesn’t happen overnight. However, I’m convinced that collaboration with the right partners will help us. Once you’ve completed such a process, you’ll also know how to navigate more quickly and effectively in the future. This includes aspects like financing and applying for subsidies. Hopefully, we’ll soon be enjoying an even more sustainable beer.”