Rochester, N.Y. – Starting on Earth Day, April 22, select Wegmans Pub locations will feature Sly Fox’s Circle of Progress Pale Ale - a sustainable, special-edition, small-batch brew made from barley malt composted with Wegmans food scraps. Aptly named Circle of Progress as a play on the idea of closed-loop sustainability, the beer tells a tale of sustainable business practices and “keeping it local” that businesses and consumers can feel good about. The current batch of Circle of Progress has truly come full circle, with its story starting and ending at Wegmans Food Markets.
Where there are large amounts of food preparation, there are large amounts of food scraps - but that doesn’t have to equate to food waste. Wegmans Food Markets is committed to finding innovative ways to recycle, such as partnering with local organizations and farmers to turn food scraps into something useful, like the compost used to “grow” your next pint of beer.
Currently, 75 Wegmans stores have programs in place that divert food scraps from landfills by offering them as feed for local livestock, or sending them for composting or anaerobic digestion. In Pennsylvania, Wegmans partners with Ned Foley at Two Particular Acres, a 35-acre farm in Montgomery County to make use of the food scraps from nine of its stores, totaling nearly 3 million pounds in 2016. Foley takes those and other food scraps and turns them into compost for fertilizing his crops, including barley.
“The real advantage of partnerships like the one we have with Ned is that the benefits are broadly shared,” said Jason Wadsworth, manager of sustainability for Wegmans. “The process is easier, safer and more efficient for our people. It helps to reduce carbon emissions generated by landfills, helps local farmers achieve sustainability goals, and creates new ways of doing business.”
Two years ago, Foley, a craft beer enthusiast, was looking for an outlet to get his barley malted when Tim Ohst from Sly Fox Brewing Company introduced him to Alan Gladish at Double Eagle Malt, a micro-malting operation in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. An instant match, Foley and Gladish began collaborating, which sparked an idea for Ohst and Foley - crafting a beer that uses only local malt. And Circle of Progress was born. The current limited batch will be exclusively available on tap at select Wegmans Pub and Burger Bar locations in Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia and New York, but once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Who grows your pint?
Foley and his wife began farming 15 years ago, and early on, with an aversion to using chemicals, adopted composting. Over the years, composting became a strong focus of their farming operation, ultimately leading to the creation of a commercial composting company to service customers, like Wegmans, that recognize the value of composting food scraps and organic residuals. The barley, and all the crops at Two Particular Acres, are raised using organic methods, which means no chemical fertilizer, herbicide, or insecticides are used.
Foley is particularly proud and excited of what his partnership with Double Eagle and Sly Fox is doing for the local craft beer scene, exhibited by the sign on the edge of his barley fields that reads, “Who Grows Your Pint?” While part of craft beer’s appeal for many enthusiasts is that it’s locally brewed, it’s not often that the barley, arguably the main and most important ingredient in a brew, comes from a farm just 10 miles down the road from the brewery.
“Growing barley for craft brewers is our way of helping the larger community understand the real value of composting and organic diversion,” said Foley. “Sly Fox, Double Eagle Malt and Wegmans all understand the value to the community and we are extremely proud to partner with each of them to ‘spread the gospel’ of compost, one pint at a time.”
What exactly does compost, one pint at a time, look like? The barley used for each pint of Circle of Progress was grown using just over three pounds of compost. That’s three pounds of material that would have gone to the landfill, but instead was put to good use making the soil healthier to produce delicious craft beer.
Because the beer only uses barley grown at Two Particular Acres, the batch size is limited, which means the team isn’t yet to the point where they can bottle the beer to make it available in the very grocery stores Foley collects food scraps from. While they hope to do that someday, Foley and his partners are a step closer than ever with the beer returning to Wegmans for sale in its restaurants, giving customers the ability to confidently say, “Ned Foley grew my pint.”
Wegmans restaurant locations featuring Circle of Progress:
Virginia - Alexandria
Pennsylvania – Allentown, Collegeville, Concordville, King of Prussia, Malvern, Montgomeryville
New York – Perinton, Transit Road
The Burger Bar
New York – Pittsford and Canandaigua