New brewery will impact water treament facility
Old Schoolhouse Brewery (OSB) in Winthrop has a dilemma — it can’t produce enough beer to keep up with demand. So, OSB plans to expand its production capacity with a new brewery at TwispWorks, with construction expected to get underway this spring.
While the new brewing facility is seen as a boost to the local economy, it will also boost the burden on the town’s wastewater treatment plant with discharge from the brewing process.
Twisp’s public works director, Andrew Denham, has been working with OSB over the past year to evaluate the impacts of a new brewery, which will be the only industrial discharger in Twisp. At last week’s Twisp Council meeting, Denham said he was in favor of the new brewery operating in Twisp.
The OSB brewery will be designed to produce up to 5,000 barrels of beer annually, but will ramp up gradually, beginning with about 1,000 barrels this year. At full capacity, the discharge — a very sugary water — that will flow from the brewery into the town’s treatment plant is equal to about 400 new residents, Denham said.
That means the town will need to charge OSB an “industrial sewer rate” and update the town’s wastewater treatment permit from the Washington Department of Ecology to increase the treatment plant capacity, Denham said. Twisp will also need to upgrade the treatment plant sooner than the town had planned (perhaps in five years rather than 10 years) to accommodate the additional discharge from OSB, Denham said.
OSB currently produces about 1,000 barrels of beer each year at its brewing facility below the pub in Winthrop. But that isn’t nearly enough to meet demand for OSB’s award-winning beer outside the valley, and OSB is unable to expand at that site, said Troy Anderson, a co-owner of the brewery.
“Our biggest problem is we can’t produce any more beer at Winthrop, and we sell all we produce,” Anderson said. “Right now we sell our beer locally at the pub, and we self-distribute” to restaurants and stores in the Methow Valley and in Leavenworth and Wenatchee, Anderson said. OSB also sells beer through a distributor in the Puget Sound area, including Seattle, Tacoma and Bellingham.
“In summer, we make it a priority to make sure we have beer in the valley. We’re not able to keep a consistent amount of beer going anywhere outside the valley,” Anderson said. “Whenever people see it in Seattle, they get excited.”
Expanding production at TwispWorks will allow OSB to supply markets outside the valley, and be a “shot in the arm” for the valley’s economy, Anderson said. “We want to expand outside of Winthrop and be a full valley presence and raise up the valley’s economy. Our ultimate goal is to distribute more into eastern Washington — Yakima, Spokane, the Tri-Cities — as well as more into western Washington.”
The new brewery will be housed in a 4,000-square-foot building near the center of the TwispWorks campus, next to Kathy B’s Commercial Kitchen. TwispWorks tore down a shed at the site last year that couldn’t be renovated adequately, said Don Linnertz, TwispWorks executive director.
TwispWorks will pay for and own the new building, and OSB will lease the space and make the improvements necessary for its brewery operation, Linnertz said. TwispWorks received a $480,000 grant from a Seattle foundation donor to design and construct the new building, he said.
OSB has received a $325,000 loan for the new brewery project through the Methow Investment Network, a TwispWorks program that connects local investors with local businesses that need funds to start up or expand. OSB presented its brewery proposal last year to the network, and received funding from several investors, Anderson said.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity. We’re one of the first projects to get funding, which is enabling us to make this happen. It’s a huge blessing that the community is behind OSB,” Anderson said. OSB plans to do another presentation seeking additional funding from the investment network this spring, he said. The loans will finance the improvements to the building and new brewing equipment, Anderson said.
The building will have a shed-style roof that is taller at one end for a storage loft. The design includes lots of windows, garage doors and loading areas for shipping vehicles, Anderson said. Part of the building will provide on-site cold storage for beer, an important feature for the brewery, he said.
Plans call for a taproom with indoor and outdoor seating to be built adjoining the brewing facility, although the taproom may be completed after the brewing facility, Linnertz said. OSB opened a taproom on the TwispWorks campus last year, which will be replaced by the new taproom.
The building is being designed by architect Ray Johnston, who has been involved in TwispWorks for many years, including serving as a former board member. The building will align with the TwispWorks master plan, and final design must be approved by TwispWorks’ design committee, Linnertz said.
OSB will hire additional employees as part of its expansion, including sales people, brewery staff and taproom staff, Anderson said. “That will mean economic growth for the valley. We’re looking forward to being an anchor point for TwispWorks and Twisp as a whole,” he said.
Conversations with Twisp about the impact on the town’s sewer system began last summer. “We hired a brewery wastewater consultant who has worked with dozens of breweries in similar situations,” Anderson said.
During the brewing process, spent grains and hops will be settled out before “highly sugarized water” is discharged from the brewery, Anderson said. The discharge is treated in aeration tanks at the wastewater treatment plant, where micro-organisms consume organic material in the first phase of the treatment process, which ultimately results in clean water that is returned to the Methow River.
“It takes a significant biological process to break down that high a loading of sugar,” Denham said. The treatment process will also result in additional biosolids, the final product of the treatment process. As OSB increases its production, Twisp will need to increase its capacity at the plant, and that will require approval and new permits from the state. OSB will need to apply for a permit from the state and the town will administer that permit, Denham said.
“Ecology will be in charge of what that permit is and will be helping us develop this partnership,” Denham said. Ecology will also weigh in on the rates that will be charged to OSB, which is defined as a “significant industrial user.” The rate schedule proposed by Denham would result in a cost to OSB of about 6 cents per gallon on average, he said.
“The bottom line is they’re buying into an existing system and they’ll be a major contributor to this system and the industrial sewer rate that I’ve proposed is consistent with the capacity they’re requesting,” Denham said.
OSB anticipates producing about 155 gallons of wastewater for every barrel of beer, Denham said. That wastewater is about 15-20 times “stronger” than average residential sewage in terms of the biological process needed to treat it. “You need more bugs,” Denham said.
Twisp is already in the process of developing a general sewer plan that evaluates sewage collection and treatment, Denham said. The town’s wastewater treatment permit from Ecology, scheduled to be updated in 2020, will address treatment plant upgrades and additional loading from OSB as well as population growth in the town.
The brewery’s use of water to produce beer is not a concern to the town, Denham said. During the first year, to produce about 1,000 barrels, the brewery will use about 566 gallons of water per day. That compares to about 250 gallons of water used by the typical home, Denham said. “It’s not much water,” he said.