Stone & Wood riding sustainability wave

Award-winning Australian craft brewer Stone & Wood is banking on ammonia. Accelerate Australia & NZ reports.

Inspired by the natural beauty of its New South Wales home, award-winning Australian craft brewer Stone & Wood is banking on natural refrigerants to deliver its environmentally friendly philosophy as it continues to grow.

Founded in 2008 by Jamie Cook, Brad Rogers and Ross Jurisch, Stone & Wood Brewing Co. is going from strength to strength. It won the ‘Regional Award’ at the 2014 Telstra NSW Business Awards and its Pacific Ale won the silver medal in the ‘English-Style Summer Ale’ category at the 2016 World Beer Cup.

Its year-round craft beers are Pacific Ale, Green Coast Lager, Garden Ale and Jasper Ale. The ‘Beers from Our Backyard’ range celebrates the natural beauty of the Northern Rivers area and includes Big Scrub lager and Cloud Catcher bitter, inspired by the towering peak of nearby Wollumbin (Mt. Warning), the indigenous word for cloud catcher.

As a keen surfer himself, Nick Cornish – Stone & Wood’s engineering manager – draws inspiration from his surroundings on a daily basis. “I like getting up early, getting in the van and cruising – sometimes it’s not even about the surf and how good it is, but just about getting out there, getting in the water, and enjoying it,” he says.

The company’s first brewery in Byron Bay has a capacity of 25 hectolitres. In 2014, the firm opened a second, 50-hectolitre brewery in nearby Murwillumbah, in far northeastern NSW.

Cornish puts it like this: “Stone & Wood was a company started nine years ago by three guys in a little shed down in Byron Bay. Very quickly – within the first four years – they started running out of space.”

“Capacity became tight. We had pallets stacked on top of one another. So we went, ‘this isn’t sustainable, we can’t do this’,” Cornish says.

Fast-forward to 2017, and growing demand for Stone & Wood’s beer means that most of it is brewed some 50 kilometres up the road in Murwillumbah. The Byron Bay site remains a working brewery and is open to the public for tours.

Treading lightly

A commitment to integrating into the local environment counts among one of Stone & Wood’s founding principles and continues to guide all its activities even as the company grows.

It is in this context that the brewer is adopting natural refrigerants.

“We place high importance on supplier partnerships, energy efficiency, and treading lightly on this Earth. After all, this is the only planet with beer!” Cornish says.

Refrigeration is the biggest energy load in a brewery. “Everything from cooling down fermentation to making cold liquor – it’s a huge load,” Cornish explains.

We place high importance on treading lightly on this Earth. After all, this is the only planet with beer!
– Nick Cornish, Stone & Wood

Reducing environmental footprint

By choosing ammonia as the refrigerant in the new installation, Stone & Wood hopes to achieve a significant reduction in energy use, high reliability, and a consistency of cooling performance throughout the brewing process.

“As we’ve grown and taken that next step, we really wanted to jump into that next phase of refrigeration and go to an ammonia plant, basically because of the efficiency that it has,” he says.

“With the business in growth, we could foresee that we were going to max out a Freon chiller plant,” Cornish recalls. “So we took the opportunity to see if we could find a more energy-efficient plant to align with our environmental philosophy.”

Ammonia was the obvious choice. “It was an easy decision to switch to ammonia, given that it’s the industry standard refrigerant for high-efficiency plants, with less environmental impact,” Cornish says.

This is a shorter version of the cover story of the spring edition of Accelerate Australia & NZ magazine, published today. To read it in full, please click here.

By Andrew Williams

Oct 24, 2017, 18:10

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