Sustainability Spotlight | June: Powderkeg Beer

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23 May 2024

This month we’re turning our Sustainability Spotlight on Powderkeg Beer, based in Woodbury Salterton, East Devon.

We asked owners Jess and John Magill about their business and their sustainability ethos…

We’re a husband and wife team, and we started Powderkeg in 2014 to shake up beer in Devon, because at that time it was a sea of brown ale. We wanted to bring the exciting flavours of craft beer and modern brewing techniques into accessible, lifestyle-friendly beers that would appeal to craft aficionados and regular drinkers alike.







We were very thrifty when we started the business, making and doing most things ourselves. We hate waste, and so we’re always looking to minimise it and re-use whatever we can. We built our new office out of reclaimed timber and second-hand fittings.

What have you done to make your business more sustainable?

We changed the way we package our beer for retail. We initially started out with bottled products, with the weight of the bottles adding significantly to delivery weights and related emissions. With no packaging facility in house, for several years we had to send tonnes of beer hundreds of miles to be packaged and then returned to us, before it even entered the supply chain – a common practice, but truly inefficient.  As a small but growing business you often have to start with solutions that are less ideal but then you can change them up once business is established.

After seven years we installed our own canning line with the help of a grant from East Devon District Council. Cans have many green advantages, as aluminium is infinitely recyclable, and we have reduced packaging weights by 94%.

Also, we don’t need to transport our beer on a 500-mile round-trip to be packaged, which after five years will have saved around 30 tons of carbon.

More recently, we have also changed the labels on our cans, from PPE to Forest Film, a bio-plastic. It’s made from a by-product of the timber industry, sustainable wood resin. It has a lower carbon footprint as it’s not made from fossil fuels. These are a bit more expensive than standard PPE labels, but it feels important to make these ethical choices where you can.

We try to eliminate single-use plastics, by re-using items that were traditionally seen as single use, such as keg caps – we encourage customers to return them with empty kegs and then clean, sterilise and re-use them many times. We also re-use much of the cardboard packaging that our ingredients arrive in. All our mail order is sent out in plastic-free, recyclable packaging.

We operate at really high efficiency because, as a small business, it usually saves you money as well! Most of our beer is delivered locally, by us, minimising energy use for transportation.

What would you like to change in the future to improve your sustainability credentials further?

We’d love to go electric with our delivery vans. It requires a big investment so we’ll have to work up to that one!

What tips do you have for other businesses that would like to become more sustainable?

Expect a journey of lots of small steps. There are things that are hard for a small business to do, such as investing large amounts of money, or finding energy-saving equipment that works at a small scale. Reading about businesses building a new state of the art zero-carbon facility can be inspiring, but also can feel unachievable. Focus on the small steps that you can take, because you learn so much along the way.

It’s worth partnering with local charities to both raise funds and raise awareness of the work they do. Although it won’t lower your carbon footprint it’s a way of supporting work aligned with your values.

We have made a beer for Surfers Against Sewage and given a percentage of ‘Green Friday’ sales to Devon Environment Foundation, because the natural environment means a lot to us, and cleaning up our seas and restoring biodiversity are hugely important.

What do you think gets forgotten in discussions around sustainability?

I think it’s around the local economy. Who are your suppliers? Do you support other local businesses with your purchasing? Empowering the local economy is a huge part of sustainability and resilience. Local producers are far more likely to be thinking about their local environment and carbon footprint, be spending money locally, and be providing local long-term jobs, than a corporation.

Unfortunately, in the hospitality industry the big breweries control a lot of the market, through offering what look like good deals which lock venues into contracts. The costs are often higher and you lose the opportunity to choose more sustainable local draught products. That’s why we have set up our own dispense services for Devon, so we can offer venues a simple cellar solution that allows them to keep control. Independence is important to the bigger picture of sustainability

About Powderkeg

At Powderkeg we are on a mission to create beer that is flavour-packed, easy-drinking and accessible (our beers are gluten-free and vegan). We take influences from craft beer around the world and classic European brewing to create something fresh, interesting and always outstanding. This is free-thinking beer.

We have won many major national and international awards, but we never rest on past success – our small, dedicated team is always striving to make sure the next beer in your hand is the best it can be.

Visit the Powderkeg website HERE


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