In the middle of last year, Capital Brewing Co. was faced with a choice. When tax cuts which equalised the tax on beer between small and large breweries were announced, the decision of how to invest the extra funds came up. For Dan Watters, Partnerships, Community Engagement & Events at Capital Brewing, one solution jumped out.
“We crunched the numbers and figured out that we could make our beers two cents cheaper, but the reality of that getting passed on it the consumer is likely not to happen, so we thought ‘What else could we do?’”
Since opening in 2017 Capital had already supported a number of community organisations, from cancer research centres to women’s refuges, and so for Watters the decision of what to do with the tax cut was right in front of them.
“We took the entire tax cut and we ploughed it into this fund for the community.”
The Good Natured Community program flows from the ethos of Capital, who are fully aware of the impact that they can have, as Watters noted, “we feel a social obligation as a company that makes alcohol to give back to our community.”
Today, the brewery has supported 110 organisations with $70 000 annually through in kind donations. But, just in case this sounded too good to be true, Watters revealed that there’s another underlying motivation of helping local organisations and artists out.
“The other reason why we partner up with other organisations and other bands and other breweries is just because we want to have fun with them.”
For example, when UK goup Royal Blood toured Australia they devised a blood orange New England Pale Ale in collaboration with Capital, and were seen doing shoeys of the brew on the Groovin the Moo stage.
Ultimately these kinds of initiatives come down to who the people who run Capital are. Led by head brewers Wade Hurley, from San Diago, Matt Thiele and Adrian Graeber, both from Canberra themselves, the team combines US and Australian approaches to beer. Hurley draws on his West Coast heritage in crafting hop-driven, dry beers, while Thiel and Graeber have thrown out ideas from sour cherry to black IPAs. Experimentation is part of the daily routine, and something that was enabled when Capital came into its own facility after a few years spent gypsy brewing.
Being in a place such as Canberra also reminds the team of their debt to the environment.
“We've got a little saying,” said Watters. “No beer on a dead planet.” The team have installed a large silo out the back of the brewery to take malt deliveries and cut down on freight movements. Having one large storage solution also removes the need for grain to be packaged in woven plastic bags, getting the brewery closer to their goal of zero waste.
You also won’t find Capital beers sold in bottles, a deliberate choice, as as a lighter container, more beer can be shipped per pallet and recycling recovery rates on cans are much higher. But after all, there was one reason that won them over, according to Watters: “Better quality beer, because [cans] cut out 100 per cent of light and you are less likely to get oxygen into a can than a bottle.”
Their goal to reduce water usage to 3.5 litres of water per litre of beer produced (it currently stands at 4.1 litres, well below the industry average of 5.3), is the result of where Capital sits. The water in Canberra comes from the Brindebella wilderness, an area locked off from development since the decision to locate Australia’s capital on the Molonglo and Cotter rivers. Originating as snow melt, and filtered through moss, this is some of the best water for brewing beer in Australia.
“We start from a really awesome place where we can build up a water profile,” highlights Watters. “A lot of breweries will have to take impurities out of the water and whereas we get rid of the chlorine and that's about it.”
Enjoying the fruits of these circumstances, Capital are approaching brewing from what’s important to them.