Two Brewers Who Walk the Walk
Why They're Tastemakers: Adam Benner and Walt Keys brew beer with benevolence. Since opening in Franklinton in 2014, Land-Grant Brewing Co. has not only brewed such popular beers as Greenskeeper and 1862 Ale, but also worked to become a good community steward. Case in point: In spring of 2017, the brewery launched Sun-Grant, a formal sustainability program. With Sun-Grant comes goals like an electric fleet, solar-powered operations and zero-waste community events, all with transparent public reporting on successes and failures. And while they're brewing, pouring and distributing 8,600 barrels of beer annually, they're raising money for nonprofits (68 in 2017). In short, these two are brewer superheroes.
On Transparency: It's gutsy to publish goals and even more so when you haven't reached them. But Benner says it's worth it. “There's a lot of greenwashing out there. Folks say that they're going to do things to get marketing and PR buzz behind them. But we want to be held accountable for our statements. If people buy a beer to raise money for Pelotonia, we better be following through.” Toward that end, Benner and Keys share their finances with their employees so that Land-Grant can be held accountable by all stakeholders.
A Bigger Vision: Keys and Benner believe that their work in sustainability will help other local breweries. “We've gotten help and advice from the [Ohio] Brewers Association,” says Keys. “If we do it, maybe other breweries our size can take on these things, too. It's less intimidating. Being responsible with our resources helps all of us.”
Beyond Cow-Tipping T-Shirts: The second location of Land-Grant opened in the B Terminal of the John Glenn International Airport, bringing some real Columbus flavor to a place once relegated to cheesy T-shirts and chain restaurants. “What we think is really cool about being at the airport is that Land-Grant is authentically Columbus,” says Benner. “It was interesting working with the folks from the airport. And having a partnership there means that you can get our beer in every place that the airport serves alcohol.” Keys adds, “It's a true representation of what we have in Franklinton. It's not just a logo slapped on the wall.”
Keeping It Local: While the pair has played with the idea of a second location in Cleveland, they have no plans to leave Franklinton. “Our goal from the very beginning has been to dig deep into Columbus and to put in deep roots here,” says Benner. “As Franklinton is expanding in front of our eyes, we'll continue to commit ourselves as a cornerstone of the neighborhood. We have a long-term lease on our building, but are looking to purchase it.”