Local distillery strives to go carbon neutral


APPALACHIAN GAP DISTILLERY co-founder Lars Hubbard stands in front of solar panels his company erected in front of its Middlebury facility in order to move toward being carbon neutral. The company also is moving toward using “renewable natural gas” — also known as methane produced from rotting manure and other organic matter. Independent photo/Steve James

LARS HUBBARD, STANDING with some of Appalachian Gap Distillery’s alcoholic products, says the Middlebury company is doing everything it can to have a smaller environmental footprint, in part through using renewable energy sources. Independent photo/Steve James
We’re not (pursuing climate-neutral status) to make noise; we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. — App Gap Distillery co-founder Lars Hubbard

MIDDLEBURY — Devotees of the Appalachian Gap Distillery like the taste and quality of the company’s gins and whiskeys.

Now customers — at least those with an environmental ethos — have an additional reason to imbibe.

The Middlebury company is on the cusp of making its operations “climate neutral,” a coveted NetZero certification for consumer brands. App Gap took a sizable step toward that goal last week with the announcement it would offset half its natural gas use with renewable natural gas, through Vermont Gas Systems.

Renewable natural gas, or RNG, is a moniker for the gaseous fuel gathered from the rotting remains of organic matter

The Goodrich Farm in Salisbury — endowed with a massive biodigester that will convert manure and food scraps into methane — will likely be a major source of the distillery’s RNG, App Gap announced.

App Gap is positioned to be the first distillery in the country to be certified climate-neutral, according to company co-founder Lars Hubbard.

“I have this belief that we should leave as small a footprint as we can,” he said. “That’s the way I live my life and the way I’ve taught my children to live their lives. We’re all environmentalists. I try to do everything I possibly can to minimize our footprint.”

Vermont Gas Systems began offering RNG in 2019. Since then, business and residential customers have collectively displaced more than 70,000 Mcf (thousand cubic feet) of traditional natural gas each year, according to VGS.

But RNG is only one of the steps App Gap has taken to reduce its carbon footprint. The company also has a super-insulated 11,500-square-foot building that is powered entirely through solar energy. App Gap sends all its waste grains and liquid residue from alcohol making to the Purpose Energy biodigester in South Burlington, where it’s turned into clean power.

Other Vermont beer and spirits makers have been proudly trumpeting their dedication to clean energy. Among them is Morrisville’s Rock Art Brewery, which prominently advertises “100% solar since 2017.”

App Gap has been able to make the same claim since 2013, but ownership hasn’t publicized it — until now.

The company this spring will re-launch its products in recycled glass bottles that will indicate “100% carbon-neutral” on the labeling. Its four primary products are Ridgeline Whiskey, Drumlin Rye Whiskey, Peregrine Gin and Mythic Gin.

Hubbard recently acquired a federally approved recipe for absinthe, which he plans to start producing later this year.

“We’re not (pursuing climate-neutral status) to make noise; we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do,” Hubbard stressed.

Vermont Gas officials are pleased to partner with App Gap in its quest for climate neutrality.

Tom Murray is vice president of decarbonization technology for VGS. He noted App Gap isn’t alone in its efforts to transition to green energy.

“The specialty foods manufacturers see value in green branding,” he said. “That’s been a trend, and it’s only going to increase.”

It’s been easier for smaller businesses to transition to renewables (due to scale), but Murray noted even larger companies like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream are setting ambitious green energy goals.

“Doing the right thing, whether doing business with integrity or distilling in a way that is easier on the planet, has always been part of our ethos as a brand,” App Gap co-founder Chuck Burkins said through a press release.

“To paraphrase Jane Goodall, what we do makes a difference, and each of us must decide what kind of difference we want to make.”

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addiosnindependent.com.

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