Sustainable business with neighbours in the port of Rotterdam
Green Carpet to the future #2: Stadshaven Brewery
“Beer just has something magical about it.” This spring, Harm van Deuren's dream will come true: Stadshaven Brewery will open its doors with solar panels on the roof. A special place, on the quay of Rotterdam's Merwehaven. While customers enjoy a beer and the view of passing freighters, cows feast on residual waste and old scooter batteries get a second life. Van Deuren on sustainability and the importance of good neighbours.
From the 1930s until the mid-1990s, the entire Merwe-Vierhaven area was a thriving hub for the transhipment of fruit and vegetables. One cold store after another was built to handle all those crates, bags and boxes. With the arrival of the refrigerated container, the fruit trade moved to another place and the port activity disappeared. After years of decline, Merwe-Vierhavens is slowly developing into a new residential and business area with surprising and innovative activities.
For example, the old fruit shed at Galileistraat 24 is currently being transformed into a brewery with a surface area of no less than 5,000 m2. Even though Stadshaven Brewery will not officially open its doors until spring, testing and brewing are already in full swing. With an 'official press moment' in mid-February, the first shipment of citrus fruit was incorporated into the new craft beer line, which was inspired by the history of Rotterdam's fruit port.
While the chef paints the ceiling, a proud Van Deuren walks through the impressive 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 kilo stainless steel installation with 19 lager tanks, 10 of which have a capacity of 12,000 litres, and some 3,000 metres of beer pipes. Every year, 2 million litres flow through the pipes here, all kinds of different craft beers, straight into your glass. Or the beers roll in bottle or can from our own conveyor belt in the production line, because we will also be supplying the catering industry and shops.”
The experience is not only in beer but also in food. Van Deuren: “In the kitchen we have three cooking methods: barbecue, smoker and two stone ovens, all of which we use for meat, fish and vegan. On the quay, on the waterfront, is the mega-terrace of 750 m2, with almost all day sunshine, lovely furniture, shady greenery and taps where you can tap your own beer with a group.”
From old scooter battery to new battery
Stadshaven Brewery is not just a place where you can eat and drink, sustainability is also an important part of the menu. In this way, the ultra-modern brewery recovers all energy and water: condensation is collected and reused just like the cooling water. And in 2020, the brewery participated in Rotterdam Unlocked, a competition in which companies presented circular issues to international start-ups and scale-ups. Van Deuren: “The roof of the brewery will have 1,700 solar panels and we wanted to know what more we could do with them. Forty international companies responded, and in the end the Schiedam company StoredEnergy was the winner. They collect old batteries from e-scooters that would otherwise be thrown away. To dissect them responsibly is a costly process. StoredEnergy has developed a method and turns those old batteries into large batteries. The surplus of energy from our solar panels is stored in such a battery. In the evening, we can use that energy to light the terrace, for example. The funny thing is that our request went all over the world and we ended up working with a company that is close by.”
Converting waste water into brewing water
Stadshaven also cooperates with neighbours in 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 provide clean water in regions where drinking water is scarce. They do this all over the world. In our brewing process, they make a test facility to collect our waste water. And they are investigating how to purify it and turn it into brewing water again. When you consider that in order to make 1 litre of beer, 4 litres of water are needed, that is of course a great innovation!”
Cows and bread
The third innovation involves other neighbours: the cows of Floating Farm, on the other side of the Merwehaven. Van Deuren: “Draff, also known as spent malt, is a by-product of brewing. It is super-nutritious; it contains an enormous amount of protein and energy and is very suitable as cattle feed. Every day, a forklift truck from Floating Farm picks up a whole load from our warehouse. According to our neighbours, each cow gives 2.5 litres more milk every day. But draff can also be used in human food. That is why we are going to use the draff in our own bread.”
Why is Stadshavens Brewery so committed to sustainability? Van Deuren: “I see it as taking responsibility as an entrepreneur, it's just part of life in this day and age. We are all on the same earth and we all want to live well. I would rather add something than tear something down. It is about being a little bit nice to the people around you, your environment and the planet as a whole. And it makes you sleep better, at least I do!”
Smell, see, taste
Beer has been the common thread in Van Deuren's life since his student days. “I have always found beer magical; there is something business-like about the different brands, the litres. But there is also an almost indescribable sentiment to it, the brewing, the recipe and the experience.”
While studying Business Administration at Erasmus University, Van Deuren organised a study tour of all the major breweries in Czechoslovakia. “I wanted to investigate how they did it, so I wrote a book about it. When I started working as a consultant after my studies, it meant that I ended up at various breweries. In 2002, I started my own business and three years later I started a wholesale beer business. In 2011, I set up the Bierfabriek, a catering chain with branches in Amsterdam, Delft and Almere with small breweries for their own use. My dream after that was to set up a really big brewery, where we have everything in-house, making beer, selling it and supplying it to outsiders. But with a catering function. I believe very much in that experience, that you see, smell and immediately taste how your beer is made and that you can also have a good meal with it.”
Brand new skylight
In mid-2017, he took his idea to the municipality of Rotterdam, his former study and home town. He was looking for a large location for his dream. “A day later the Port of Rotterdam Authority called, they had a property, the old fruit shed. When I went to look, I was excited about the location and the size, but it was a hideous building, one big dark fridge with only walls, no windows and concrete slabs on the floor. What can we do about it, I asked the Port Authority?”
The Port Authority took up the challenge and dug up the original construction plans from 1930 in the archives, including the original skylight. They then renovated the building very thoroughly. Van Deuren: “All the cold store walls have been removed, as have the old concrete slabs. We now have a concrete floor with 40,000 hexagonal floor tiles, laid by hand. We installed large glass façades in the walls but preserved the striking concrete trusses. The roof has been given a brand-new glass skylight, but still in the old style. Apart from the beer, the light pours in.”
Exciting and strategic
The area also gives Van Deuren energy. “When I still lived in Rotterdam, Rotterdam was raw and tough, but here around the Keileweg, there was nothing for you. It is fantastic that the Port Authority and the municipality are now investing so much in the Merwe-Vierhaven area. There are many exciting start-ups, but the combination of working and living is also very appealing. Strategically, it is very well situated between Rotterdam and Schiedam. It has the potential to grow into something great. Rotterdam still has that toughness and that 'can do' mentality is really in the city's capillaries.”
Van Deuren sees the future as bright. “Even though everyone is still struggling because of Covid-19, I am very much looking forward to opening and welcoming people soon. We are already enjoying being here; it is a nice and pleasant building. I hope that people will enjoy being here to experience the brewery. It feels good!”
Van Deuren does have tips for other entrepreneurs who want to become more sustainable: “Start by making a circular profile of your input, consumption and output. Such an overview gives you an idea of your footprint and where you can improve things. You become aware of what you are doing. If you have an issue, present it to others. Work together!”