St. Paul brewery, U of M teams establish Organic Brewers Alliance
Bang Brewing in St. Paul has teamed up with University of Minnesota's Forever Green Project and the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture to create the Organic Brewers Alliance.
ST. PAUL, Minn — In an effort to create a network of brewers and farmers who are using sustainable and organic practices, a brewery in St. Paul has teamed up with the University of Minnesota to create the Organic Brewers Alliance.
Jay and Sandy Boss Febbo are the owners and brewers at Bang Brewing in St. Paul. They started the brewery in 2013, when they became only the third brewery in the city. Bang Brewing was the first 100% organic brewery in the Midwest.
"Brewing with all organic ingredients is a certain challenge, just based on the fact that sourcing those ingredients is labor intensive," said Sandy Boss Febbo.
She said it's gotten a little easier with each year they brew, but still far more work than any conventional brewery has to deal with. That's why the motivation for the Organic Brewers Alliance is to make it easier on smaller operations who are committed to brewing organic, said Boss Febbo.
The Organic Brewers Alliance began with "a lot of conversations," said Boss Febbo, because in the first few years of their operation, the couple put in an inordinate amount of time into finding sources for organic supplies.
"Getting an audience from the larger brokers when you're working at our scale isn't necessarily easy to do, because we're not buying mass quantities," Boss Febbo said.
She said when they started to find and begin relationships with farms on their own, it felt special and rewarding.
"We realized that there are farms out there and are farmers that are working organic and raising ingredients we could use — we just don't have a way to connect," she said. "Finding and establishing that network was something that we recognized would have a lot of value for both farmers and for brewers."
The idea to start an organic alliance stayed an idea for several years, said Boss Febbo, and over that time they started to cooperate more with the University of Minnesota's Forever Green Project, the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and "all these great entities that are working with a real similar DNA to what we're wanting to do" through their beer.
"Through meeting those teams, and talking about this idea that we had, we got some interest in partnerships," Boss Febbo said.
Then the pandemic hit. Boss Febbo said hours they normally would've spent in the taproom were put toward forming the alliance. University of Minnesota students and programs were unable to work in farm fields, so they had time to do more research on the topic.
"It was just like the perfect synergy to bring it together and get it going," Boss Febbo said.
"Bang Brewing is the impetus and reason why any of this is even happening," said Connie Carlson, market opportunity development specialist for the Forever Green initiative at the University of Minnesota. "It's an idea that came from them, and we at the university just kind of found the pathways to make it happen."
Boss Febbo said what they envision for the Organic Brewers Alliance is to be an "amazing online tool, "where anyone can search by region, state or ingredient and find farmers, brewers and mid-producers.
"Because we need small maltsters too, and in-betweens, that are really a challenging link for a lot of farms," she said. "There are farms out there that are growing organic ingredients, and they are interested in working with brewers but don't necessarily have the capability to find them, or a properly scaled partner to do the malting for them."
Carlson said the next step in the process for the alliance is for the student research side to develop the website. She's optimistic that a landing site for people who are interested in the alliance will be available to visit by this fall.
Carlson, who grew up on an organic farm in central Minnesota, said she's delighted to see the progress in the organic farming community in the state.
"(The Organic Brewers Alliance) is just another culmination of the organic movement," she said.