The writer of this PGF story is Laura Bonds.
If you live in or have visited Memphis, chances are you’ve tasted a Memphis Made Brewing Co. beer. Fireside, the amber ale dominating 75% of the brewery’s production, is a crowd favorite with its malty flavor and crisp finish. Memphis Made has produced beer and served Memphians from its taproom since opening in the fall of 2013. Co-founders Drew Barton and Andy Ashby are proud to say Memphis made them who they are. The spirit of Memphis – hard work, determination, and pride – is core to Memphis Made. From the beers brewed and served to customers on the corner of York and Cooper, to the cans distributed throughout Memphis and the Mid-South, the customer remains at the center of every decision Drew and Andy make. One such decision came early on – the choice to recycle and operate the brewery with the environment and Memphians in mind.
Soon after settling on the name Memphis Made, which reflects both the beer production and the pride of many of its consumers, Drew and Andy got in touch with Margot McNeely, founder of Project Green Fork, inquiring about ways to implement recycling and green practices into their business. At the time, the organization didn’t have a classification applicable to the brewery, since it wasn’t a restaurant serving food, so the partnership didn’t progress beyond an initial conversation. Memphis Made kept an open mind about how they could be good stewards of the environment and aimed to recycle as much as possible.
Fast forward five years to 2018 and Project Green Fork had evolved and was better prepared to support non-traditional restaurant industry businesses like Memphis Made. Building upon the brewery’s existing recycling practice, Project Green Fork deepened the work and provided new ideas on how to support the environment. The Memphis Made co-founders could have foregone green practices after the first conversation with Margot, but they chose to stay the course and recycle on their own, epitomizing the hardworking and determined spirit of Memphis. The payoff speaks for itself, with the brewery recycling a van-full of cardboard each week for years. Over time this adds up, and after becoming Project Green Fork certified, Memphis Made’s recycling now contributes to the incredible 4.5 million pounds of cardboard and paper recycled by Project Green Fork partners.
Project Green Fork helped with the front of house recycling, but an area unique to Memphis Made and the brewing industry is the reuse of grain. Each week thousands of pounds of grain used to make the beer are picked up and shipped to a local farm in Covington where it is reused as cattle feed. Drew explains it can sometimes be a challenge to find someone to consistently pick up the grain, but staying true to his Memphis roots, he doesn’t stop when faced with a hurdle. He searched to find a farmer who would be a good fit and found a reliable partner who even reuses containers each visit for a bonus of sustainability.
As business picks up in a post-pandemic world, Memphis Made is selling its beers outside of the Memphis area to vendors in West Tennessee and North Mississippi. Though it’s a little more expensive, Memphis Made decided to switch from plastic six pack lids to cardboard containers that can be recycled and are more environmentally friendly in a landfill. “They cost more than plastic, but it’s important to us to make that switch,” Drew says of their expanding operation. This statement demonstrates Memphis Made is more than a name; it’s a mindset about supporting one’s community and doing good for future generations.
The thought of a high price tag for environmentally friendly products might turn some people off, but “the cost for things like to go containers is not what people think it used to be,” Drew states. Memphis Made is excited to transition to the new cardboard carriers and appreciates the support provided by Project Green Fork to identify products that are cost-effective yet recyclable or compostable.
One might not immediately think of a craft brewery as an environmentally conscious business. But Memphis Made ensures their bright, delicious beers can be consumed with eco-friendly products to build a cleaner community. Drew and Andy know it takes more than good beer to keep an operation going, and from the brewery’s beginning, they were committed to support their neighbors by recycling. The partnership between Memphis Made and Project Green Fork demonstrates when businesses in the Memphis community work together, a positive impact is made for the local economy and for the environment, a win-win for anyone who loves the city on the Mighty Mississippi.
Grab a Fireside, the seasonal Soulful Ginger (Drew’s favorite) or your preferred Memphis Made brew, and cheers to tasty beer, good neighbors, and ongoing sustainable practices.