Taylor Smack of South Street Brewery, Charlottesville, VA

The Nature Conservancy is celebrating fall with OktoberForest, a collaboration with local breweries to raise awareness about the importance of forests in providing clean water. We spoke with Taylor Smack, owner of South Street Brewery and founder of Blue Mountain Brewery, about nature’s role in the brewing and enjoyment of craft beer.

Visit nature.org/OktoberForest to learn more about the connection between healthy forests and clean water, and see the list of participating OktoberForest breweries across the country!


Nature.org: How has nature inspired you as a brewer?

Taylor Smack:

With few exceptions, beer brewing has been associated with industrialization in an urban setting for most of the last 200+ years. Cranks and wheels, steam, metal, cities, etc. But of course, brewing is agricultural at its root, just like wine making. This is reflected in one of our slogans: “The beauty of Virginia, the bounty of nature, the art of brewing.”


What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water and good beer?

Taylor Smack:

The 30-year revolution of independent, non-commodity “craft” breweries has brought with it a very real awareness of participation in all things local. Local community, local charity and local environmental concerns. Healthy forests are part of clean water, and clean water is pretty darn important to good beer.

But what I’m really getting at is that independent breweries are generally smaller and very imbedded in their communities. The beer we make is created and consumed locally, and the support of the people around us is all we have. So it becomes a “don’t foul your own nest” kind of mentality with the way you operate your brewery. Small footprint, don’t pollute, think about what you use.


How are your breweries working to be sustainable or environmentally friendly?

Taylor Smack:

Well, we do some big things and some little things. One big thing would be what almost all breweries do, which is to consider the spent grain and hops from our brewing process as a usable co-product and not as simply a waste stream. All three of our breweries give (for free) our wet, spent grain to farmers for cattle feed (and in one case sheep in addition to cattle). It seems like a small thing, but at our production brewery, this is 40-50,000 pounds of wet spent grain every week.


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