Cast your mind back to the halcyon days of 2004. The Olympics returned to Athens, The Facebook was launched (and then promptly lost the awkward ‘The’) and Covid was probably just a made-up word that would start an argument during a game of Scrabble.
In little old New Zealand though, Mike Sutherland and Kirsty McKay took a chance on buying a small local business and took over running the Sawmill Brewery (originally located next to the Leigh Sawmill Café). That chance bore tasty, malty, hoppy, successful fruit, and Sawmill have become a brewing darling.
In the craft beer industry, it can sometimes be a little trite to say that someone is a maverick or doing something differently; that’s sort of implied in the word ‘craft’ after all. But in a town more well known for its wineries and Sunday markets, Kirsty and Mike were far from the craft brewing epicentres of the time.
That insulation and passion for originality and doing things properly drove much of what has made their beers so beloved, but also led to Sawmill becoming the first B Corp Certified brewery in New Zealand. Check out our write-up in this very wineletter on the ins and outs of B Corp if you aren’t familiar, but in short, this certification is a Very Big Deal.
The path to B Corp is a demanding one, and to meet it Sawmill have undertaken many initiatives both to minimise their harm to the environment and maximise contribution to their community.
Carbon recapture systems, incredibly low rates of waste to landfill (averaging less than 11kg per week), a heavy focus on water efficiency and utilising New Zealand grown and made products wherever possible are just some of these initiatives that are part of everyday business practice at Sawmill.
Of course, it’s not really good enough just to tidy things up for a B Corp Certificate and then go back to questionable practices, so re-certification is a required part of the process. This process has just been finalised for Sawmill. How did they do? Well, a pass requires a score of 80, the median score of ‘ordinary’ business is 50.9 and Sawmill received an overall impact score of 96.5. Not bad, to say the very least.
Craft beer in cans is normal these days, but Sawmill were the first to do it locally. Only time will tell if their drive to be a force for good will catch on as much, but while we wait and see on that, there’s a beer or two with their name on it that we think you’d love.
Matakana, New Zealand
Awkward Refreshments is a new project for Sawmill Brewery in Matakana. With Sawmill the four times winner of the Brewers Guild Sustainability Award, you know this comes from a good place, just in time for summer.
As you’d expect, Sawmill have been quietly radical in their approach. This Ginger Beer is naturally fermented and doesn’t use refined sugars. In the spirit of a traditional Ginger Beer there is a spice hit from the ginger and cinnamon and a refreshing kick from the lemon, with a dry finish.
Brewed with Hawkes Bay lemons, Awkward Lemonade is naturally fermented and super thirst quenching. Both worth checking out.
You might have heard the terms B Lab and B Corp bandied around, maybe you’ve nodded along wisely when someone mentions them, thinking how they must be the latest entrepreneurial efforts of everyone’s favourite Destiny’s Child singer.
Well, you were wrong, but that’s okay, because we’ve got the skinny here for you.
B Lab was kicked off in 2006 by a group of forward thinkers who believe that a new way of doing things for businesses was not just desirable, but necessary.
They took the stance that a business or organisation should take into account what is good for all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Stakeholders that include their employees, their customers, suppliers and the environment itself.
From that philosophy of driving business as a force for good, the B Corp Certification drive was birthed. Essentially when a business is B Corp certified they have passed a rigorous examination of their processes and outcomes to prove that they are committed to being part of that change for good.
The certification is a challenging process, and desirably so. B Corp is meant to be much more than just a warm fuzzy sticker to attach to a company letterhead, but instead proof of a drive for change for the good of all.