Across the country, more and more people are enjoying the ability to choose between organic foods and their pesticide-ridden counterparts, and if Bison Brewing Company owner Daniel Del Grande has his way, more people will also be able to choose between the environmentally-friendly organic beer and the mass-produced stuff.
Before purchasing the Berkeley, California-based company in 1997, Grande was an environmental engineer that simply enjoyed homebrewing as a hobby, and Bison was just a small neighborhood brewpub that was serving beer made using traditional processes.
“Originally, the company was just a brewpub; a local manufacturer serving tasty food and beer to the neighborhood,” Grande says. “But shortly after I bought it, I spent a lot of time at the organic farmers markets buying things for the restaurant, and I realized how much better the food seemed to be and appreciated the environmental message. Then I noticed that organic grains were becoming available, and that was just a natural thing to move into.”
After transforming the brewpub into a successful destination spot with an emphasis on the restaurant, Grande noticed that the brewing side of the business was beginning to flounder. So, he reinvented the company, closing the restaurant to essentially become a one-man brewing operation with occasional part time help for bottling the beer. Still, he wasn’t completely satisfied with the direction that the business was heading. He wanted more people to have the opportunity to enjoy organic beer, but this was difficult due to the increased costs of shipping across long distances.
“After five years, I decided the model wasn’t scalable, and it was just about me and not the beer or the organic brewing of the beer,” Grande says. “So, I reinvented the business again, and now I sell beer in several states by shipping my ingredients out across the country to existing breweries to be brewed locally. This way they reach a larger market at a lower cost to consumers.”
Today, Grande is considered by many to be a leader in the organic brewing industry. Since 1999, he has taught classes on a variety of subjects to budding brewers, including brewery engineering, operation and maintenance, and laboratory work for the American Brewer’s Guild, where he met brewing enthusiast George Allen, now a co-owner of Bison.
Most recently, Grande launched CoHOPerative, a website that allows organic brewers across the nation to aggregate their orders and achieve better pricing. It sends a clear message of product demand to farmers and processors to strengthen the supply lines of organic hops, which will help to ensure the sustainability of the industry.
“It’s important to work with your peers, where you’re not stepping on each other in a competitive angle,” Grande says. “I think that people that stay in the shell of their own business will never flourish like they truly could. We want adequate quantity and excellent quality. The only way to achieve that goal is to work together.”