The Water Barn
The vision we had when Bench was created was one of farmhouse style brewing in a beautiful agricultural setting. True to the farmhouse style, it was important to be rural and close to the source of a significant number of our inputs – water, hops, fruits (including grapes) and wood (barrels and Foeders). We were going to be a brewery that farms and collaborates with farmers as proud members of Lincoln’s agricultural community.
Today, as an established rural farmhouse brewery, our dream is real as we strive to use as many local inputs as possible for our beers. We grow our own hops and use fruit from our neighbouring farms in our sour, barrel aged and mixed fermentation beers with all the barrels sourced from our neighbouring wineries. These neighbouring farmers are families that have been growing fruit for over 200 years sustainably and as incredible stewards of the land. Just like our neighbours, sustainability is an integral part of our culture at Bench Brewing.
Our mantra for water sustainability is Conserve, Recycle and Reuse – this for every drop of water that we use for brewing. Water is a precious resource that we cherish and want to use in a sustainable manner for brewing and irrigation of our land and crops. As a rural brewery, we are not connected to the Town of Lincoln sanitary waste lines. There is no option to put water down the drain and we don’t believe that hauling our effluent to a wastewater treatment plant causing harm to the local system as well as unnecessary carbon emissions is responsible and right for the planet . As farmers, we experience the need for sustainability every day.
We conserve by using as little water as needed to make the beer. Currently that is 5 Litres of water for every Litre of beer produced. (the market average is 8 Litres). We never have running taps and watch every drop as it comes into our brewery as we push to improve and get to our goal of 4 to 1 Litres ratio. Every Drop Counts.
We have constructed a water purification system onsite that treats all of our brewery wastewater. Our wastewater eligible for treatment consists only of water that we have used for cleaning, brewing and during packaging. We also make sure to side stream all of our hops and yeast to make the brewery waste water easier to treat and of the highest quality before it enters the purification system.
The system utilizes a series of traditional purification methods such as UV, Ozone and Reverse Osmosis to clean our brewery waste water to a level that is suitable for irrigation as well as fertilizer with the residual organics left from the purification process. This organic material resulting from the purification process, as well as the spent hops and yeast create a nutrient rich slurry that is then applied to our hops field as well as our neighbouring apple orchard, fruit farms and vineyards as fertilizer.
We have received approval from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) through a Non-Agricultural Sourced Material (NASM) plan that permits us to irrigate at Bench and two other adjacent properties (Hipple Farms and Vineland Research) with this treated water as well as application of the treatment process for fertilizer. This plan is administered weekly during the growing season with rigorous testing of our purified water and organics to ensure compliance and safety. We have also achieved an Environmental Compliance Approval Certificate from the Ministry of the Environment that also requires rigorous testing and oversight to ensure a healthy program for our crops and the environment.
An important point to mention is that we don’t co-mingle our domestic waste from washrooms or the kitchen with our brewery effluent. In construction of our facility, we built two pipes exiting the building – one for brewery effluent and one for domestic waste so that they would never integrate. The brewery effluent goes to the water barn for treatment. The domestic waste goes to our onsite Aqua Wetland System – a natural aerobic digester that breaks down the waste before we then transfer in to a bio-filter system or traditional septic system that cleans the water before sending into the tile bed and soil. Our AWS and Bio-Filter systems are connected directly to our brewery as well as through a force main from the Church that travels underneath the hops yard.
As mentioned above, once treated, the water is then used to irrigate our hops field as well as our neighbouring apple orchard, fruit farm and vineyards of approximately 170 acres. The fruit (cherries, plums, peaches) are used as inputs for our beers creating a circle of sustainability. The water is applied directly in the growing season through our trickle irrigation systems and then in the winter, stored in a large retention pond of up to 6mm litres, for use in the spring. The retention pond is connected by a 1 km long pipe that runs 4 feet below the hops yard (important as under the frost line) and over to the pond located on Cherry Avenue. We are treating and reusing up to circa 15,000L per day.
All of our spent grains from brewing are given to a local farmer who uses it to feed his livestock all year round. Zero waste.
By implementing our Conserve, Recycle and Reuse program from the very beginning, we have created a Zero Waste Water brewing platform.