Swinkels Family Brewers

Looking ahead towards a sustainable future

Water is the most important raw material for beer. Swinkels Family Brewers, better known as Bavaria, is therefore careful with water. Just like the company also pays a lot of attention to other aspects of sustainability. “We want to pass the company on to the next generation in optimal condition,” says CEO Jan-Renier Swinkels. “That includes sustainability.”

For the Bavaria brewery in Lieshout in Brabant, Swinkels Family Brewers has its own water source at a depth of two hundred metres. The water there was collected about 15,000 years ago in the Eiffel and the Ardennes and is slowly moving westwards. “We take less than what is supplied,” says Swinkels. “This way, we can use the source for years to come. In addition to water as an ingre­dient for beer, the brewer uses water to clean the installations, which is relatively common for brewing beer. The boilers and other equipment are regularly rinsed. Rinsing empty bottles also requires a lot of water.”

Sustainable installation

The wastewater goes to a treatment plant for treatment. In 1984, Paques installed a BIOPAQ® installation at Bavaria in the existing treatment plant. Today the installation is still working. It purifies the water and produces biogas. In 2004, the installation was expanded with a THIOPAQ® gas scrubber to extract the hydrogen sulphide from the biogas.

The biogas is used by Swinkels Family Brewers to generate electricity and heat for the pro­duction process. The treated water is clean enough to discharge into the surface water. Since 2017, farmers in the vicinity have been benefiting from the wastewater. They are members of the Bier Boer Water coopera­tive, which was set up with the support of the brewer. A drainage system has been installed to supply the companies with water. This came in handy in the extremely dry summer of 2018.

Jan-Reinier Swinkels

Growing along

Swinkels Family Brewers is not only looking for ways to optimise water use in its own production process. A large part of the water is used earlier in the chain. “We encourage suppliers of raw materials, such as barley, to work sustainably,” says Swinkels. “For example, we check whether they are mem­bers of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative. We would like to see them grow with us to become increasingly sustainable.” In the coming years Bavaria wants to work hori­zon­tally towards developing a circular busi­ness management. “In addition to water and raw materials, we also look at energy, packaging and machines. In the next two years, we want to save 10% at our brewery in Lieshout.” The fact that the brewery has been a family business for 300 years helps to make the right choices, according to Swinkels. “Our investments do not have to yield a return tomorrow. We are looking to the future. A sustainable future.”