Continuing the conversation with Amy George, CEO of Earthly Labs:
How Would You Describe the State of the Beer Industry During COVID?
With having such an interesting perspective of the craft beer industry, I was curious about what George’s thoughts were on the current challenges the pandemic has brought.
“It’s an extremely resilient industry. I’ve been so impressed with how quickly breweries have pivoted to focus on customers; whether it’s direct to consumers in places where you can mail or, to go, delivery services, or offering food when you weren’t before. It’s amazing. I am so honored to be part of that,” she observed.
“Some of our customers have really had a downturn in production. Everybody is packaging more, so that’s consuming more CO2. From a CO2 perspective, what we didn’t expect is there would be shortages. There’s a nationwide shortage, and we didn’t know what the duration would be, which is still uncertain. It has gotten worse, not better. The forecast from the Brewers Association was 20 to 30% of the supply would be cut, which statistically, as we look out into the CO2 supply represents over 800 breweries. So, it’s significant if suddenly you can’t get CO2. In some places, the prices have gone up because of the shorter supply. They’ve gone up as much as 50 to 100%,” George added.
In a recent nationwide poll George performed, she asked breweries how many have been affected by shortages or rationing. The response said 50%. According to George, this nationwide number is much higher than our specific Austin market. With Texas breweries being in close proximity to a source of oil and gas most are within what George refers to as a “bubble of supply.” With new normals showing a lessening in drivers on the road, we will likely see a continued shift in electric and renewable energy sources. Earthly Labs is trying to meet real demand from people who suddenly need the equipment, or whose prices have doubled.
But, How Does it Taste?
Does the beer made using CO2 capture taste different? After many blind taste tests, George declares a resounding, YES! In fact, she claims many head brewers also agree that it tastes better. Obviously, breweries that are on board have stated the importance of the technology not changing the quality of the beer they produce. Participants’ entire goals revolve around ensuring their beer tastes the same as what we all have grown to love, respect, and expect. According to George, the comparisons have shown the CO2 captured versions are delicious.
Not only does the end result taste phenomenal, but George also explains that “with the recovered CO2 you have bigger head retention, lacing on the glass, and aroma… all the things you want.” She never tires of watching master brewers be over the moon at how surprised they are by the overwhelming quality being produced.
How Do Consumers Know if Earthly Labs CO2 Capture Was Used in the Beer They’re Drinking?
George points out, “There was a national survey out of Indiana University that said 65% of craft beer consumers would prefer breweries that invest in technology, like solar, low carbon tech. The craft consumer cares, and they’re willing to care with their dollars.” 512 Brewing, who recently went to market for the first time, has put Earthly Labs on their packaging. They are the first brewery to include that information consistently. Denver Beer Co created a signature beer specifically for Earthly Labs and they have also had customers stamp the bottom of their cans as using recovered CO2. According to George, “We don’t have anyone who’s put us on the can year-round yet, but we do have some folks considering that. We’re thrilled to be featured in any way. We know all of our customers have gotten media attention and praise and that we know translates into traction of new customers.” Moreover, she noted how much the taprooms are loving it. Not only does it provide beertenders with a great, uplifting story, but as mentioned earlier, the pour on one of these bad boys is perfect.
Earthly Labs continues to track this data seeing how adding their logo to Earthly Labs powered beer’s tap handles affects revenue. Stay tuned and follow them for updates!
What Are Your Goals For the Future?
George has many future goals for Earthly Labs. As they continue to grow and work with new industries like large scale craft breweries, wineries and distilleries, what else are they doing to change the world?
“We started the CO2 exchange this year with cannabis, where a brewery will capture the CO2 and then sell some part or excess to a cannabis grower and they use it to stimulate plants. In the indoor growing whether you’re making tomatoes or cannabis you use CO2 to stimulate growth. We tested out what natural CO2 does to the plants. The exciting thing is the yield is improved in the quality or potency of the plants. We continue to study that data to see what it tells us and to add more CO2 exchange partners so people that can buy extra CO2 from breweries. That gives them another revenue stream if they have excess for their technology,” she adds.
Solve 1 Billion Metrics Tons of CO2 & Tax Incentives
“Our big hairy goal is to get to a billion metric tons captured. To do that we have to cross into other markets. In the world of climate, they need us to solve 40 to 60 billion metric tons of CO2. It’s quite a lot and brewing alone won’t get us to the goal. Carbon capture is seen as 13% of the challenge for scientists. How many people need to say ‘yes’ to solar, or renewable energy, or energy efficiency to meet the reduction goals?” she asks.
She goes onto say, “So, we’re one slice of a really big pie, but it’s the least well-known or the least advanced so we have a great canvas to work with! Exciting challenges…seeing how we can move faster, how can we accelerate this with the support of the markets, and reward the people that are making the investment. There are tax incentives for things like solar and there are tax incentives for carbon capture if you’re a big oil and gas company, so why not the brewery? My newest initiative is around that. How do we advance this notion of carbon capture for small businesses in a way that advances policy to meet their needs.”
Certified B Corporation
Earthly Labs is well on track to becoming a B Corporation. What exactly is a Certified B Corporation? According to their site, “B Corp Certification is the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. The B Impact Assessment evaluates how your company’s operations and business model impact your workers, community, environment, and customers. B Corp Certification proves your business is meeting the highest standards of verified performance.”
“Continuing our own social and environmental performance behind the scenes offering our employees better quality of life, giving back to our communities, advancing diversity and culture… That’s all part of being a B Corp, but that’s core to our ethos,” George concludes.
Lofty and admirable goals, Earthly Labs! “The world of carbon capture is achievable,” she encouraged. We can do it, and enjoy great beer along the way!
The future looks brighter knowing people like Amy George are in it!