Brewing and distilling

Brewing and distillingEnvironmental information for craft breweries, distilleries, wineries, and cideries, and for home brewers who want to start commercial production. This sector has set itself apart by implementing sustainability into business practices from the start. Identify best practices and take your sustainability to the next level.

Environmental regulations

Air emissions

  • Most producers will not need an air permit. However, you should evaluate your facility to make sure you do not need an air permit, and keep records of the evaluation and results. Fuel-burning equipment, grain handling and drying equipment, back-up generators, and the fermentation process itself can all contribute to the need for an air emissions permit.
  • Contact the MPCA’s Business Assistance program for free, confidential help at 612-282-6143 or 800-657-3938.
  • If your facility needs an air permit, you are likely to qualify for the simplest and cheapest air permit, known as a Registration permit.

Construction Stormwater

Hazardous waste

Industrial stormwater

  • Many producers qualify for the no cost, low-requirement industrial stormwater No Exposure certification. This is an option if you don’t have any materials or processes exposed to rain, snow, or runoff.
  • Some cities charge a stormwater fee on your utility bill, and will give you a discount if you can control the amount or quality of stormwater leaving your site. Many watershed districts offer funding and technical assistance for projects that keep stormwater clean, such as raingardens, pervious pavement, or tree trenches. Bang Brewery in St Paul installed a raingarden.

Industrial wastewater

  • Private treatment systems (aka septic systems) used for non-residential purposes often require a permit from the MPCA, your county, or EPA, depending on the daily flow design. A permit is required if you will discharge wastewater to surface water. 
  • Small amounts of fermentation wastewater and other residuals can be spread on farmland as a replacement for commercial fertilizers if you follow the requirements in the MPCA fact sheet on land application. Larger amounts require a permit.   


  • If you have a restaurant, tap room, or tasting room, are located in the Twin Cities metro area, and contract for trash collection of four cubic yards or more per week, you are required to recycle at least three materials. A four-cubic-yard dumpster is approximately 6 feet wide, 4 feet deep, and 4 to 5 feet high.


  • If you have air conditioning or refrigeration equipment that uses CFCs, HCFCs, or HFCs, the federal EPA requires you to use certified technicians who capture all refrigerants during repairs and follow EPA rules for maintenance and repair. There are additional steps to take if your equipment is large and leaky.

Community right-to-know reporting

  • If you have two or more lead-acid battery powered forklifts, you may need to report them annually to the MN Department of Emergency Management due to the presence of sulfuric acid in lead-acid batteries. Contact the EPCRA program at 651-201-7416 for more information.

Stay updated

  • Subscribe to the MPCA’s quarterly e-newsletter, the Small Business Enterprise, to stay updated on regulatory changes, common compliance issues, sustainability, funding, and training.

Environmental sustainability and conservation

Admin and operations

Customers and tasting room

  • Include nearby bus or train routes and Nice Ride bike rack locations on your website’s map/directions page and social media. This is especially important when you promote special events, which are likely to draw new customers.
  • Provide ample and prominent bike parking.
  • Consider installing an electric vehicle charger in your parking lot.
  • Implement a composting program, and include the food trucks you host. Work toward making events zero-waste. Bent Brewstillery partnered with Anchor Fish and Chips to turn potato peels into product. Home Street Home food truck worked with Waste Wise to implement composting and recycling.
  • Source used furniture, fixtures, and equipment whenever you can. Most restaurant supply stores have an extensive collection of used equipment. Be creative and repurpose materials, too –  several taprooms in Minnesota have bars and tabletops built from old bowling alley lanes.


  • Keywords for internet searches on reusing old properties: “adaptive reuse” and “land recycling”
  • MN Brownfields has info on financial resources, common obstacles, and how to get started on land recycling. The Minnesota Brownfields Resource Guide collects information on loans and grants for cleaning up industrial properties. Canal Park Brewing managed contaminants and built their current 8,500 building on a brownfield site. Castle Danger Brewery built their current facility on a brownfield site in Two Harbors, MN, with the help of multiple partners and MN Brownfields.
  • Incorporate green building practices and green building products, especially reused or reclaimed materials and fixtures.
  • RETAP offers free energy, water, and waste assessments, with a focus on your building’s envelope – the doors, windows, insulation, and HVAC.
  • Switch to more efficient, longer-life LED light bulbs. Canal Park Brewing in Duluth uses LEDs exclusively, both inside and out.
  • Install motion sensors on lights in bathroom, offices, and low-traffic areas.
  • Window awnings can reduce the summer heat gain of west-facing windows by 77%.
  • Labels to look for: EnergyStar, WaterSense
  • Thinking about using renewable energy? You can often sign up for wind-generated power through your electric utility (such as Xcel’s Windsource program). Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub in Minneapolis uses solar panels to offset 20% of their electricity needs. Insight Brewing in Minneapolis subscribed to a solar garden in Carver County that will offset 120% of the brewery’s electricity.



  • Reduce water use. Start with benchmarking. How many gallons of water are you using to make a gallon of product? For breweries producing less than 10,000 barrels annually, the average is around 8 gallons used per gallon produced. The national Brewer’s Association provides free manuals on how to evaluate and reduce water, energy, and waste. Minimizing water use can be especially important in rural locations, where small wastewater treatment plants may not be able to accommodate your wastewater volume.
  • Reduce energy use. Start with benchmarking. ENERGY STAR® Guide for Breweries provides ideas for improving energy efficiency and expected payback periods.
  • MnTAP at the University of MN offers free assistance reducing energy, water, and waste in your production line. With the help of a MnTAP intern, one Duluth brewery identified small process and equipment changes that could save 130,000 gallons of water per year.
  • Source used equipment when possible. Buy Minnesota-made when you need new. Most companies that manufacture food-grade or medical-grade tanks can fabricate tanks to your specs.
  • Packaging: bottles vs cans
  • Brew a bad batch? Check with your distillery friends and see if they can use it.
  • Source local ingredients. Not everyone can grow their own grains like Du Nord Distillery and Far North Spirits do, but your neighborhood farmer’s market is a great place to make connections and find suppliers for specialty ingredients.
  • More local successes in The Growler: “8 things every brewery should do to be more conservation-minded”