The Big Green Blog Post


When I was a kid, my mom had an old green Volkswagen bus, you know, similar to the one in Scooby-Doo; the iconic hippie-mobile. At the time I was really embarrassed by my mother’s eccentric taste in automobiles, but looking back it made perfect sense. The beads in her hair, the penchant for woodworking, and the green VW bus all pointed to one thing—she was a TOTAL hippie. Naturally, hippies were the first thing that came to my mind when I saw The Big Green Bus pull into our parking lot here at Stone on Wednesday afternoon, leaving a pungent aroma of hash browns in its wake.

The Big Green Bus

The Big Green Bus

The Big Green Bus is a full-size bus (1989 MCI Motorcoach, to be exact) remodeled by 15 Dartmouth students to be as sustainable and energy efficient as possible. The students are taking their green labor of love on a summer-long cross-country tour to raise awareness about sustainability and energy-efficient practices. And it smells like hash browns because it runs on 100% recycled vegetable oil, not because the students have a deep affinity for breakfast fare.

At first glance, The Big Green Bus looks like a glorified version of my mom’s old green VW bus, but that couldn’t be father from the truth. “We spend a lot of time convincing people that we’re not gross-smelling hippies,” said one student, “most of us showered this morning.” The Big Green Bus is much more than a meagerly-funded flower-child mobile with wicked green graphics. Along with running on biodiesel, the bus is also a mobile showcase of environmental conservation. Everything inside, from the low-energy plasma TV to the recycled bamboo flooring, is the epitome of energy efficiency.

Anna, a Dartmouth sophomore from the Big Green Bus, being interviewed for the local news. The Big Green Bus is greeted by cameras wherever they go.

Anna, a Dartmouth sophomore from the Big Green Bus, spreading her message on the local news. The Big Green Bus is greeted by cameras wherever they go.

If a summer-long tour on The Big Green Bus sounds like a great time, think again. These kids work hard. According to Kerry, it’s about 90% work and 10% play. Not exactly your quintessential summer of love. Everywhere the students go they’re greeted by news cameras and general media hubbub, and Stone was no exception. Escondido Mayor Lori Pfeiler, the folks at the California Center for Sustainable Energy, and a bevy of local media joined us in welcoming them to Stone on Wednesday afternoon.

So why did they come to Stone? Because they were hungry, of course (I guess word got out that our Bistro serves locally-grown, organic food). They also enjoyed a tour of the brewery and learned a bit about our solar array and our other efforts to operate sustainably. But most importantly, they came to fill up their tank with our Bistro’s used vegetable oil—the same stuff that our Lead Brewer John Egan uses to power his truck.

Mayor Lori Pfeiler and the folks from the California Center for Sustainable Energy joined us in welcoming the hard-working crew of 15 Dartmouth students

Mayor Lori Pfeiler and the folks from the California Center for Sustainable Energy joined us in welcoming the 15 hard-working Dartmouth students.

We’re stoked The Big Green Bus chose to stop and share a part of their journey with us, and we’re glad we could help spread their message. If you spy a lumbering green bus speeding down the highway smelling like Sunday brunch at iHop, give those hard-working Dartmouth students a honk in support. They deserve it.

-Matt Steele

John Egan Brews His Own Fuel Too


Remember last summer when gas prices were ridiculously inflated? Remember wiping away the tears while your hard-earned cash ticked away at the pump faster than our national debt? John Egan doesn’t. While the rest of us were subject to the tyranny of fossil fuels, John avoided gas stations entirely, comfortably enjoying his wallet-friendly biofuel solution. When John isn’t supervising our brewing team, managing our cask and barrel aging program, and watching over our prized special creation beers (like Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans), he’s indulging in his green side by converting 100% of our Bistro’s waste oil into biodiesel fuel to power his truck. So how does he do it?

John Egan’s 1999 Dodge Ram 2500, which weighs 7,000 lbs., can get up to 24 mpg using biodiesel. John also uses biodiesel in his 1980 Mercedes Benz 300D.

Every other week, John uses an electric pump powered by his truck battery to extract waste oil from a 50-gallon drum behind our Bistro. Once the oil is filled back into the containers it first came in, he takes it home, processes it in the custom-built system in his garage, dumps it in the tank of his truck, and voila!

So what does biodiesel have to do with beer? Well, according to John, being a brewer comes in handy. “There are a tremendous amount of parallels between biodiesel and brewing,” said John. “You take raw materials and turn them into something else, and quality is extremely important. Much of the same equipment is used such as pumps, hoses, valves, tanks, filters, etc.  Actually, used brewing equipment would work exceptionally well to make biodiesel with.”

While John genuinely enjoys “taking waste materials and turning them into something of value,” he admits that brewing biodiesel isn’t a walk in the park. “It’s quite involved and takes effort,” said John. “It’s not one of those things that you try out, and then decide to scrap after a few months.”

John extracting the oil from the 50 gallon drum behind our Bistro

John extracting the oil from the 50 gallon drum behind our Bistro. Before our Bistro opened in November 2006, John acquired waste oil by other means, including reclaiming the oil used to make the Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings at our Anniversary parties.

Sure, brewing biodiesel isn’t easy, but it is easy on the wallet. After processing, one gallon of biofuel comes out to about $1. Aside from being outrageously cheap, biodiesel also runs a lot cleaner than regular diesel, and emits a pleasing french fry smell as an added bonus. It can be slightly less efficient than regular diesel, though still more efficient than regular gasoline.

John is obviously a fan of the environment, but he’s also realistic. He feels that biofuels are “an important part of our energy matrix as a supplement, but they aren’t the solution to our energy problems.” Sure, biofuel may not be the magical panacea for our energy woes, but it definitely helps. John put it best when he said “it feels very good to reuse things that would otherwise find their way into a landfill.” That’s something I think we can all agree on.

-Matt Steele

Check out the press release we wrote about our Delivery Truck Fleet running on biodiesel.

Our Beer Gardens…Literally


If you’ve been to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, you’ve probably noticed that we have an entire acre of completely organic, fully sustainable Gardens attached to the Bistro. Some refer to them as our “Beer Gardens,” not knowing just how accurate that label really is. Truth is, we maintain our Gardens using by-products from the brewing process, resulting in real honest to goodness “Beer Gardens.”

Maintaining such a large expanse of Gardens is no easy task. So how do we do it? Meet Chili, Stone’s resident botanical wizard, and the keeper of our beautiful Gardens (he earned his nickname because he grows chilies and likes his food HOT). By reusing by-products from our Brewery and Bistro, and utilizing a few clever gardening techniques, Chili maintains our Gardens using nothing but what Mother Nature provides.

The man behind our Gardens

The man behind our Gardens

I recently caught up with Chili in his natural environment, which he lovingly refers to as his “cage.” While it’s true it isn’t exactly a window office, his “cage” is actually a fenced-off, covered storage area wedged between the Gardens and the Bistro kitchen where he keeps his desk and all of his gardening tools. Despite the jokes, Chili is quite fond of his decidedly unconventional office, and I get the sense that he prefers it to a view of Fifth Avenue. Actually, the real reason we keep Chili in a cage is to contain his unbridled passion for gardening (I apologize for that one, I couldn’t resist).

Chili working hard in his "cage"

Chili hard at work in his "cage"

I stopped by just as Chili was preparing to plant a few early yield tomatoes, and he was kind enough to share some of his secrets with me. He explained that the most important step in maintaining a healthy perma-culture is mixing the proper soil. He then divulged his secret recipe:

Chili’s Spent Grain Topsoil Recipe

Ingredients:
- 2 shovels of spent grain from the Brewery
- 2 shovels of decomposed granite (Escondido’s natural topsoil)
- 2 shovels of vegetable compost from the Bistro kitchen
- A few handfuls of nicely aged mulch from the chipper

Directions:
Combine two shovels of spent grain and two shovels of decomposed granite in a large bucket. The spent grain should contain little green specks from the hops used in the brewing process, and be slightly damp from the remnant wort (notice the desirable beery fragrance). The decomposed granite should be brown in color and have a moist dirt-like consistency. Mix together thoroughly. Add two shovels of vegetable compost from the Bistro kitchen. Make sure there is plenty of insect and worm life in the compost, and that it has a fresh earthy smell. This indicates an abundance of vitamins and minerals. Mix thoroughly with the spent grain and decomposed granite until mixture is consistent. Add a few handfuls of aged mulch (the mulch consists of fallen branches, twigs and leaves from the Gardens that have been fed through the chipper and aged in large barrels), blend thoroughly and voila! Once the topsoil is nicely mixed, it’s time to plant. Chili recommends filling the bottom of the chosen pot with gravel for drainage, and surrounding the fledgling plant with the fresh soil mix up to the first few branches. Then top it off with a bit of aged mulch, lightly water it, and watch it thrive. Once the roots have grown deep and strong, delicately transplant it to its final destination. In this case, the final destination for our vigorous little tomatoes is the Southeast nook of our Gardens (on the bank next to the gazebo/lounge/peat gravel area), where we keep a variety of seasonal vegetables. Check out a map of everything we have growing in our Gardens.

Chili’s proprietary (patent pending) soil blend works wonders in our Gardens, contributing to a fruitful year-round harvest. We’ve also noticed it makes the food taste better, due to the proliferation of essential micro-nutrients that petrochemical fertilized foods lack.

When I asked Chili why he uses spent grain from the brewery in his soil recipe instead of another fertilizer, he responded with a straight-faced “because it’s there.” I promptly reminded him that gardening is no laughing matter, and he gave me the real reason. Apparently the spent grain flourishes in the soil, creating an abundance of microbial activity and general liveliness. Chili also emphasized that it’s time proven. He’s been using spent grain since his days as a gardener at Pizza Port, and it’s worked wonders time and again.

Chili procuring spent grain from the Brewery

Chili gathering spent grain from the Brewery

Spent grain isn’t the only brewing by-product that Chili recycles. He also snatches up the used oak chips that we use to brew OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale. These lovely, odoriferous chips not only have a beautiful deep silky brown color, but they retain their alluring bourbony smell for about a week. Chili puts them to use as a decorative top layer, propagating the pleasing smell and thick brown sheen of OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale throughout our Gardens. Their purpose isn’t solely decorative, however, as their acidity helps neutralize the alkaline properties of the decomposed granite that makes up our natural topsoil.

The fragrant Oak chips used to brew OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale

The fragrant Oak chips used to brew OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale

Our Gardens are proof that sustainable gardening works. Aside from the occasional use of manure, Chili procures everything he needs for the Gardens here at the Brewery. He takes what would normally be discarded and sent to a landfill and re-uses it to create a vibrant, flourishing perma-culture. So the next time you see Chili sipping on an after shift beer or tending to the Gardens, be sure to raise him a glass on a job well done.

If you want to learn more about our Gardens, the plants therein, and lessons that could translate to your own garden, join us for “A Stroll Through the Gardens with Nan Sterman” on March 15th from 1-3pm. Nan is a popular speaker at garden shows, botanical gardens, garden clubs, and botanical societies throughout the State, and she’ll provide insight into how we “created an imaginative garden from an ugly, hole-in-the-ground sedimentation basin.”

-Matt Steele

Check out the flickr set: Gardening Stone-style with Chili

A Stroll Through the Gardens with Nan Sterman

Click for more information about this upcoming event