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Cheers to sipping sustainable alcohol in 2020

People drinking in new york
Image by Ben Duchac on Unsplash

For the last few months we have been counting down the days, and today we can officially say it is summer. It is time to dust off the Barbeque, riffle through your wardrobes for those warm weather pieces, and crack open a cold one. The sun is here to stay! Finally, we can go outside and enjoy the wonderful British outdoors: Brighton Pier, the Peak District, and Hyde Park, London. We don’t know if you’re the same, but at the Beagle Button we are giddy at the prospect of a G&T in the garden.

However, before you take a sip, have you ever asked yourself: Is this drink sustainable? We can help you out if you’re worried that your drink of choice is more expensive for the planet that it’s price tag. There are vineyards and breweries that are pioneering in sustainable alcohol. We have compiled a list of our favourite eco-friendly alcoholic beverages. Recommending products is what we do... The Beagle Button is designed to sniff out the best sustainable alternatives for the products you want to buy, from a full-bodied Merlot to a citrusy cider.

The Issues

Alcohol, when consumed responsibly, can be great. Beers, wines and spirits are massively popular, and as a result are sold practically everywhere. It is widely recognised that alcohol comes with risks, especially in regards to health. However, one negative of alcohol that is overlooked is the effect alcohol has on the environment.

The alcohol sector significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, making up at least 1.5% of the UK’s total emissions. It is easy to look at a bottle of wine and simply think that it would go well with dinner. Every alcoholic beverage goes through extensive production, packaging and distribution processes before it is sold. Take transportation, we consume over 1300 million litres of wine each year in the UK, and near to none is locally produced. We sources most of our wine from Australia… No wonder the emissions are so high!

Luckily for the planet, there are more sustainable options available. You can drink responsibly. Hopefully our suggestions can help you pour yourself a glass and toast to the summer, without shattering the environment.

Our Recommendations

Spirits:

Gin

We promised a G&T in June, so here you have it. Arbikie Highland Estate is a British gem located in Angus, Scotland. Arbikie produces authentic high quality spirits, including the Nàdar Climate Positive Gin. Every 700ml bottle of Nàdar has a negative carbon footprint. The production of each bottle removes 1.54 kg of CO2 from the environment… Who knew climate action involved kicking your feet up with a cocktail!

Vodka

Milk Vodka? Before you completely dismiss it hear us out. Black Cow distils vodka from whey, a natural milk protein. Jason Barber and Paul Archard decided to scrap their family’s 300-year tradition of cheese making, and instead turn otherwise wasted milk into a creamy, smooth vodka. This might not be conventional, but it sure is resourceful. Black Cow’s barking mad idea has evolved into a low-waste award winning spirit.

Whisky

If lactose vodka is a little too left wing, don’t worry; we do respect the fact that most people prefer conventional drinks. If you love tradition, Cooper King might just be your poison. This distillery produces outstanding single malts that combine tradition with modern innovation. They source their whiskey malts from the oldest working British maltings, Yorkshire Warminster Maltings. To balance this tradition with a modern twist, they run off 100% green energy. They also produce outstanding Gin that proudly boasts of being the only European gin with 1% for the Planet accreditations. This company somehow manages to achieve so much more, from using plastic free packing to reducing energy and water use. Guess we can’t call their spirits poison!

Botanical Spirits

The Founder of Nc’nean, Annabel Thomas, started a distillery from scratch in March 2017. She had caught the whisky bug, but believed that it was time to create something new. Her dream became a reality with the Nc’nean Botanical Spirits. Nc’nean only use energy that comes from renewable sources, they are the first fully organic distillery in Scotland and they are waste free.

Vineyard at sunset

Wine

Writing this article it has become become painfully clear that there is so much more to learn about wine. There is a plethora of different regional wines, grapes and fermentation processes, which all have a significant impact on the flavour and quality of wine. We might not know our wines but at the Beagle Button we do know a lot about is sustainability, so give our guide on sustainable wines a chance!

There are many different certifications that label wines as sustainable. Wine can be ‘organic,’ ‘biodynamic’ or sustainable in regards to packaging and transportation. Organic wines are those that are produced without using synthesized ingredients, such as GMOs, fertilisers and pesticides. USDA Organic and EU Organic are examples of organic certifications. Organic wine certifications change depending on where a wine has been grown. Biodynamic wines are those that are use holistic techniques to maintain agricultural and soil health. With this knowledge, what can you do to improve you purchasing habits?

Start small. First, you can opt to drink organic wines. Look for organic certifications as they promise a strong sustainability base. Second, shop locally. Locality is key in drinking sustainable wines. The more local a wine is grown, the less distance it has travelled to get into your glass. An organic Australian wine sold in the UK is likely to have a larger carbon footprint than a French equivalent.

Listen to the experts on sustainability. Check out sites including Sip Certified that have found sustainable wines and listed them on one comprehensive website. These websites recommend award winning, organic wines. You can also use websites such as Wanderlust Wine. This website was specifically set up to connect wine lovers to quality wine that they might not otherwise come across. Wanderlust wines recognise that not all businesses can afford certifications. Even if a vineyard engages in wildlife conservation, uses energy saving technology and minimises their carbon footprint, they might not have an official certification.

We recognise that sometimes you want to taste exotic wines. For our final recommendation we are shouting out a South African company. Backsberg wine company produces carbon neutral wines packaged in lightweight bottles. They can be bought online and shipped to Europe. This brand has been named WWF Conservation Champions. Cheers to them!

Cider

If you ask us, cider is the prefect summer drink. The Old Mout Cider Kiwi & Lime Cider is zesty, light, and bubbly. Even though it was first established in New Zealand, this cider is made in the UK, which reduces transport emissions. Their ciders are naturally flavoured and sold in fully recyclable bottles. Old Mout Ciders are all vegan friendly! If that isn’t enough, they work with two charities that protect biodiversity, Kiwis for Kiwi and WWF. With this recommendation we wanted to show that even recognisable brands sold in the average pub are making a sustainability effort.

Breweries

Let’s drink a toast… That might not sound quite right, but it was written like that intentionally. Toast is a B Certified company that sells quality beers with a purpose. For every craft lager, pale ale or IPA you purchase from Toast they donate a meal to someone in need. One third of all food is wasted, and Toast is tackling this. It brews beers using up surplus fresh bread and therefore reduces CO2 emission that would otherwise be emitted. This company donates ALL profits to charities, and so far have given $45,708 in an impressive attempt to fix the food system. So, once again, let’s drink a toast!

Small Beer brewery is another B Certified company. Small Beer has revolutionised water use. It takes up to 10 pints of water to produce a single pint of beer. They manage with 1.5 pints of water. If you like low alcohol beers Small Beers brewery specialises in classic beer styles all below 2.8% ABV. It is also certified vegan, and was awarded a 2019 Great Taste stamp.

There are so many factors to consider when analysing the impact of alcohol on the environment. Very few breweries thoroughly investigate what their products are costing the planet. Adnams Southwold is not one of those companies. Adnams is the first UK brewery to complete a full carbon life-cycle assessment of their beer range. They look at their brand’s emissions, as well as their suppliers, in order to reduce their carbon footprint and energy use. Adnams beer was established in 1872, but it isn’t stuck in the past. In fact they’re forward thinking, which is clear as they have reduced their carbon emissions by 48% since 2008, and are ‘zero to landfill.’

Beers at sunset

Who are we again?

Alcohol isn’t something that pops out as unsustainable. We often forget that small decisions do have consequences. For example when you buy a take away coffee, it’s not obvious that there are multiple sustainability issues. Is the coffee Fairtrade? Was the coffee imported by air? Is the coffee cup recyclable? The same goes for a Heineken, or a Pimms. We buy drinks often, so we have the opportunity to make small, but frequent changes to our lifestyles. The Beagle Button is designed to make these decisions easier by suggesting similar alternatives to what you are looking for online. We make sustainable changes accessible, so why not give it a go?

All that information was heavy to digest. It’s high time we go outside and have a refreshing and sustainable drink in the sun. Cheers!