At Atlas Brew Works, environmental sustainability is all the buzz

At grocery stores around the world, the fate of bruised peaches and misshapen plums is often the trash — but one D.C. brewery is helping to cut down on food waste by finding a new use for imperfect fruit: Beer.

Since 2017, Atlas Brew Works has teamed up with MOM’s Organic Market to turn unsold stone fruit into a sour summer ale, aptly named Ugly & Stoned.

Last year, the brewery rescued about 500 pounds of fruit per batch of beer. This year, it’s hoping to do the same.

“Our sort of ethos, in general, is trying to be a good environmental steward,” said Atlas Brew Works founder and CEO Justin Cox, who launched the “Rescue Brew” project with the folks at Environmental Working Group and Food Policy Action Education Fund.

Atlas, located in the Ivy City neighborhood of Northeast D.C., is 100% solar-powered. It also has water recapturing programs and donates its spent grain to local farms for feed and compost. Working to eliminate food waste by using fruit that doesn’t sell in the store seemed like the next logical step, Cox said.

In the U.S., 30 to 40 percent of all food is wasted, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. And more food ends up in landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports.

The environmentally minded Atlas Brew Works packages its beers in aluminum cans. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

Atlas head brewer Daniel Vilarrubi describes Ugly & Stoned, which is made using recovered peaches, plumbs, nectarines, pluots and apricots, as having “a bit of body to it and a touch of sweetness” — perfect for summer. Each batch varies, however, depending on the type of fruit used and the amount collected.

“The idea is [MOM’s is] going to give us the stuff that they can’t sell,” Vilarrubi said.

Cox added: “Normally we try to make all of our beers very consistent, we work very hard to make sure that each batch tastes similar or the same as the previous batch, but this beer we kind of just said, ‘Let’s do the opposite. Whatever it tastes like, it tastes like.’”

The brewery plans to release Ugly & Stoned in cans and kegs around July 4.

Before that happens, Atlas employees, friends and customers will gather in the tap room on Saturday, June 22 to cut up hundreds of pounds of the donated stone fruit, before it is pasteurized, fermented and made into beer.

The “stoning party” starts at 11 a.m. and is open to the public.

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