Table Scraps

Table Scraps: How Four Peaks Walks Its Sustainable Talk

Four Peaks does “a lot of little stuff that hopefully adds up to a larger impact.”
Four Peaks does “a lot of little stuff that hopefully adds up to a larger impact.” New Times Archives
Welcome to Table Scraps, a monthly series on food-related waste and sustainability, and what some eateries, farms, institutes, and households are doing right. This isn’t a guilt trip, just a way to unpack initiatives attempting to reduce food waste, maybe address climate change. We explore backyard composting to city programs, restaurant tips to technology, and anything related to this global issue. Heat up those leftovers, and settle in.

Four Peaks Brewing Co. always seems to be doing something cool for the world. Yes, I'm aware Arizona's largest brewery was bought out by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2015. But that doesn't seem to have diminished its sustainability efforts. In fact, some of its righteous activities happen because of its Anheuser-Busch partnership.

I first realized Four Peaks went beyond beer-making in 2019 when we wrote about the canned water partnership with Arizona State Parks. That project was more about keeping summer hikers alive, but it also demonstrated how Four Peaks walks its talk.

“It's a lot of little stuff that hopefully adds up to a larger impact,” Zach Fowle, Four Peaks' communications manager, says of the company's efforts.

I asked Fowle to count the ways. He obliged. His first example: The company has moved away from single-use products such as plastic straws and containers. “Everything we have now is biodegradable. Just to keep plastics out of the pool. The big pool of Earth.”

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The canned water partnership with Arizona State Parks.
Four Peaks Brewing Co.
There's also the Pints for PPE program, part of a partnership between The Brewers Collective (aka the craft beer department of Anheuser-Busch), TerraCycle, and 18 craft breweries across the country, including Four Peaks' historic 8th Street Pub. In short, if you bring used PPE (disposable masks, gloves, etc.) to the pub and toss it at the TerraCycle box, you get a gift card worth $5.50 — the exact price of a pint.

The pub partners with R. City, too. We've described R. City as Phoenix’s “very own composting angel.” Four Peaks’ food waste goes to them, and they turn it into compost.

Four Peaks’ spent grain from beer-making is sent out to local farms to be used as cattle feed. Gilbert-based Perry Land & Cattle “actually will send us the beef from the cows they feed with our used grain and we use that beef in our burgers at the pub,” Fowle says. “So, it's a circle of life thing there.”

Another effort focuses on glass. “I feel like a lot of people who live in Tempe don't realize all the glass in their recycling gets tossed into the landfill,” Fowle says. (It was at this point in the interview I had to hold back a choked gasp of surprise. I’ve lived in Tempe for years. I had no idea, but it’s true.)

So, Four Peaks partners with a group called Refresh Glass. “They recycle our glassware and turn it into products. They will take bottles and make special glasses out of it, candles, things like that,” Fowle says. Four Peaks is creating a community glass recycling drop-off station at 8th Street later in March or early April. People in Tempe, and from other communities who can't recycle glass, can drop off their glassware at a dedicated space at the 8th Street Pub.

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"Respect & Protect your parks!" reads the Four Peaks billboard, and in sight of the brewery's namesake, too.
Google Maps
If you’ve ever hauled your ass up the Beeline Highway, you’ve might’ve seen the Four Peaks billboard. It’s not pushing beer, just this sweet message: Respect & Protect your parks!

“People send us pictures of our cans and bottles out at a state park or at the end of a hike or whatever, and obviously we love seeing those photos, but we also want people to know that if they're doing that, they need to recycle those cans and make sure that they don't leave any trace,” Fowle says. “One of our least favorite things is to see one of our bottles or cans left in the wild.”

When the Bush Fire went up State Route 87 and across the Four Peaks Wilderness in summer 2020, Four Peaks hosted a number of clean-up and replanting events.

“We have our staff and our fans go out there and replant bushes and cacti and all the plant life that was destroyed during that fire,” Fowle says. “We partner with a few groups called Tread Lightly, the Copperstate 4 Wheelers, and Tonto Recreation Alliance.”

And here's one more.

“This is a basic one that a lot of other breweries and restaurants do as well,” Fowle says. “We prefer to work with local companies to obviously support them, but also cut down on our carbon footprint.”

For its food and other-than-beer drink menu, Four Peaks uses products from Noble Bread, Chula Seafood, Arizona Distilling Company, Gunslinger Hot Sauce, Cutino Sauce Co., Mama Lola's Authentic Tortillas, and Denmark Foods, Arizona Fresh. It also uses items from Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters, “which is literally right next to the brewery,” Fowle says. “So they don't even have to drive the van over.”

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Last year 500 solar panels on the roof of its 56,000-square-foot production facility on Wilson Street
Four Peaks Brewing Co.
Finally, there’s the new Sun Day Solar Seltzer.

In 2020, Four Peaks installed 500 solar panels on the roof of its 56,000-square-foot production facility on Wilson Street (about two blocks from my house on a nasty little industrial road I use as a shortcut to the bar). As a result, Sun Day Solar Seltzer is made with renewable energy from the sun, the first Four Peaks product to do so.

The panels are part of a larger Anheuser-Busch initiative called Elevate, an initiative is focused on changing and updating energy sources to more sustainable and renewable ones at Four Peaks and other breweries.

“It was a goal of ours well before the acquisition,” Fowle says of the installed solar panels, “But it became more real and more attainable as a result of our partnership with Anheuser-Busch.”

And it could be just the beginning.

"We'd love to have more products that are using this method. We're going to start with this one and see how it goes,” Fowle says. “Sun-powered sun brew is something that we would love to have in the future.”
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Lauren Cusimano was the Phoenix New Times food editor from 2018 to 2021. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.