A dirt road veers off of Rippleton Road in Cazenovia, New York, and passes a garden of hop vines wrapped around and climbing up ropes. The road continues and leads to a sunny, wooden building with tall reflecting windows showcasing a brewery within a restaurant. Inside are juicy, beefy burgers and fresh home-grown salads served family-style at tables. Glistening glasses with different shades of golden brown beer are on the bar in front of several men and women. It’s the Empire Brewery Company.
Empire Brewery grows many of its own ingredients. Barley, wheat and rye are some of the crops grown for beer production, and they also serve as cover crops in some areas which improve the quality of the soil and prevent weeds according to Jason Eaton, Empire’s farmer.
Whatever the company does not grow but needs, it buys from local farmers within the New York state. By doing this, BUY LOCAL is a philosophy Empire has adapted.
“Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back into the community where it belongs,” according to Michael Shuman, author of Going Local.
The transportation of ingredients is reduced by buying within the same state, which not only helps the company receive goods faster, but by also reducing environmental pollution. Transportations harmful effects such as air quality, noise, water and soil quality, not only affect our surroundings, but also our health.
Another positive outcome Empire has on the environment is the reduction of waste from their brewing process. After milling and mashing grain for beer production, Empire gives the spent grain to neighboring Meadows Farm where it is mixed with hay to feed cows. “We reuse the grain from the beer to feed cows,” Michael Hollenberger said.
“It’s really neat in the fact that their waste product comes to our animals and is an unbelievable feed product to produce the beef that goes back for sale in the restaurant where the beer is made…it’s a complete cycle,” Todd Avery, the farm manager at Meadows Farm said.
According to Empire’s webpage, this process essentially defines Empire’s philosophy phrase, “Eat where you live and we grow beer.”