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Doing sustainable business with the neighbours in the Port of Rotterdam

Green Carpet to the Future #2: Stadshaven Brouwerij (Brewery)

‘There is something quite magical about beer.’ This spring, Harm van Deuren’s dream will come true when Stadshaven Brouwerij with a solar panel-filled roof opens its doors. It occupies a unique location on the quay of Rotterdam’s Merwehaven. While customers enjoy a beer and the view of passing freighters, cows munch on leftover waste and old scooter batteries are given a second life. Van Deuren talks about sustainability and the importance of good neighbours.

From the 1930s to the mid-1990s, the entire Merwe-Vierhaven area was the thriving hub for the handling of fruit and vegetables. One cold store after another was built to cope with all those crates, sacks and cases. The arrival of the reefer meant the fruit trade moved elsewhere and the activity in the port disappeared. After years of decline, Merwe-Vierhavens is slowly making a comeback as a new residential and business area with often surprising and innovative economic activity.

For example, the old fruit depot at Galileistraat 24 is currently being transformed into a brewery with a floor area that covers no less than 5,000 m2. Even though Stadshaven Brouwerij doesn’t officially open its doors until spring, testing and brewing are already in full swing. At an official press moment in mid-February, one of the first batches of citrus fruit was incorporated into the new craft beer line, which was inspired by the history of Rotterdam’s fruit port.

As the chef paints the ceiling, a proud Van Deuren walks through the imposing space. ‘From one of the 350 seats in the café/restaurant area, you will soon have a beautiful view of our brewery: a 120,000-kg stainless steel installation with 19 lagering tanks - 10 of which have a 12,000-litre capacity - and about 3,000 metres of beer pipes. Every year, two million litres of craft beer in many varieties will flow through the pipes, straight into your glass. Moreover, our bottled or canned beers will roll off the conveyor belt at the end of our very own production line because we will also be supplying the hospitality and retail sectors.’

‘A day later the Port of Rotterdam Authority called to say they had some premises: the old fruit depot. '

Harm van Deuren, Stadshaven Brewery

The experience is not just about beer: it’s also about food. Van Deuren: ‘In the kitchen, we have three cooking methods. We use a barbecue, a smoker and two stone ovens for meat, fish and vegan food. On the quay overlooking the water, there will be a mega terrace measuring 750 m2, with virtually day-long sunshine, lovely furniture, shady greenery and taps where you and your group can pour yourselves a beer.’

From an old scooter battery to a new one

Not only is Stadshaven Brouwerij a place where you get great food and drink, sustainability also features prominently on the menu. For instance, the ultra-modern brewery recovers all its energy and water: all condensation is collected and, like the cooling water, it is re-used. In 2020, the brewery participated in Rotterdam Unlocked, a competition in which companies submitted circular issues to international start-ups and scale-ups. Van Deuren: ‘The roof of the brewery will be fitted with 1,700 solar panels and we wanted some ideas about how to get the most out of them. Forty international companies responded. In the end, the Schiedam-based company StoredEnergy emerged as the winner. They collected old e-scooter batteries that would otherwise have been thrown away. Dismantling them responsibly is an expensive process. StoredEnergy has developed a method of repurposing using e-scooter batteries as large stationary ones. We store the surplus energy from our solar panels in such a battery so that in the evening we can use it for things such as powering the lights on the terrace. What I find amusing is that our question was put to the whole world and in the end, we are working with a company around the corner.’

Turning wastewater into spring water

Stadshaven also works with its neighbours down the street. Rainmaker is a company that specialises in making water from the air or by purifying seawater, for example. Van Deuren: ‘Their mission is to bring clean water to regions where drinking water is scarce. They do this all over the world. Part of our brewing process includes a test setup with which they collect our wastewater. They are researching how to purify it so we can turn it back into water we can use for brewing. When you consider that it takes four litres of water to make one litre of beer, then this is clearly a wonderful innovation!’

Floating Farm haven Rotterdam

Cows and bread

The third innovation involves yet other neighbours: the cows of the Floating Farm on the other side of the Merwehaven. Van Deuren: ‘BSG or Brewer’s Spent Grain is one of the by-products of brewing beer. It is highly nutritious as it contains a tremendous amount of protein and energy, which make it ideal as livestock feed. Each day, a Floating Farm sends a forklift truck to collect an entire load from our warehouse. According to our neighbours, it is the reason why each of their cows produces 2.5 litres more milk a day. What’s more, BSG is also a great additive that can be re-used in human food products. As such, we will be using it in our own bread.’

Why is Stadshavens Brouwerij so committed to sustainability? Van Deuren: ‘I view it as each entrepreneur’s responsibility and it’s the right thing to do in this day and age. We all share the same planet and we want to live pleasant lives. I’d rather build something up than demolish something. It’s about showing a little kindness to the people around you, your environment and the Earth as a whole. It helps you sleep better; at least, it does in my case!

The smell, the look, the taste

Beer has played a major part in Van Deuren’s life since he was a student. ‘I've always found beer magical; it has something business-like about it, what with the all different brands and the litres. There’s also an almost indescribable sentiment surrounding it: the brewing process, the recipe and enjoying the finished product.’

While studying Business Administration at Erasmus University, Van Deuren organised a study tour of all the major breweries in Czechoslovakia. ‘I wanted to find out how they did things there, and I wrote a booklet about it. When I started out as a consultant after graduating, my job meant I got to visit lots of different breweries. In 2002 I started my own business and three years later I launched a wholesale beer business. In 2011 I founded the Bierfabriek (Beer Factory), a hospitality chain with branches in Amsterdam, Delft and Almere, each of which brews its own beer. I then had a dream of setting up a really big brewery, where we would have everything in-house: making beer, selling it, and supplying it to third parties. It would also have a hospitality function. I’m a great believer in the whole experience of being able to see and smell your beer being made, while you are discovering how it tastes as you enjoy it with a good meal.’

Brand-new skylight

In mid-2017 he took his idea to the Municipality of Rotterdam, the city where he used to study and work. He was looking for the ideal location for his dream. ‘A day later the Port of Rotterdam Authority called to say they had some premises: the old fruit depot. When I went to view the building, I was enthusiastic about its location and size, but it was hideous: a single huge, dark cold store with windowless walls and concrete slabs on the floor. I asked the Port Authority what we could do with it.’

The Port Authority took up the challenge and delved into the archives where it found the original 1930 building plans, which included drawings of the skylight, which had long since been removed. They then completely renovated the property. Van Deuren: ‘All of the cold store walls were removed, together with the old concrete slabs. We now have a concrete floor with 40,000 hand-laid, hexagon-shaped floor tiles. We installed large glass sections in the walls, but we kept the striking concrete trusses. The roof was fitted with a brand-new glass skylight, made to the original drawings. Like the beer, the light streams in.’

Exciting and strategic

Van Deuren also gets power from the area. ‘When I still lived in Rotterdam, the city was rough and tough and you had no business being here in the Keileweg area. It’s fantastic that the Port Authority and the municipality are now investing so much in the Merwe-Vierhaven area. There are lots of exciting start-ups there, and the fact that you can both live and work here is very appealing. Strategically it is very well located, right between Rotterdam and Schiedam. It has the potential to grow into something magnificent. Rotterdam still has the toughness and its can-do mentality is an integral part of the city’s identity.’

Van Deuren sees the future as bright. ‘Even though the coronavirus means that everyone is still just muddling through at the moment, I am very much looking forward to opening the doors and welcoming customers very soon. We are already hugely enjoying being here as it’s a lovely, pleasant property. I hope people will soon be able to come and savour the experience the brewery has to offer. It feels great!’

Stadshaven Brouwerij heft het glas

Tips

Van Deuren has some tips for other entrepreneurs who are looking to become more sustainable: 'Start by creating a circular profile with your input, consumption and output. Once you have a clear picture of things, it will give you an idea of your footprint and where you can improve things. You become aware of what you do. If you have an issue, put it before other people. Work together!

Energy in transition

The Port of Rotterdam Authority is committed to combating climate change and wants to play a leading role in the global energy transition. The reduction of CO₂ emissions and efficient use of raw and residual materials are important tasks for the Port Authority.

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