A new craft bewery has joined the burgeoning brewpub scene and is introducing innovative end-to-end practices in processing and packaging.

I dropped in on Urban Alley's new premises in Melbourne's District Docklands mid-construction a few months back to meet founder Ze'ev Meltzer and see what this brewer was doing differently. At the time, the micro-brewery was close to completion, but the pub area – which will house an impressive 550 people – was still an empty shell. The designs I saw promised a "New York loft meets Melbourne warehouse aesthetic", connecting the production facility to the brewpub constructed from recycled brick and wood throughout. And on 6 September, craft beer lovers will be able to see for themselves when the brewpub opens its doors.

While much of the beer production on site will be for in-house consumption, Meltzer tells me Urban Alley has inked a deal with Liquorland, which will be ranging its signature Urban Ale come September.

What catches my eye on the sixpack is the can holder, apparently the first biodegradable one on the Australian market.

Meltzer says Urban Alley Brewery has pioneered local introduction of the biodegradable six pack rings (called E6PR), which is made from spent grain, a by-product of brewing.

"E6PR is not only a great alternative to plastic, it is also edible to marine life, which is great news for our oceans and environment," Meltzer says, noting that Urban Allery Brewery is currently the only brewery in Australia and 5th brewery in the world to implement its use.

The 25 hectare-litre brewhouse, which opens early September, is set to produce 2 million litres per year through a combination of its Urban Core range as well as monthly and seasonal limited releases.

According to Meltzer, production has been challenged at every level to ensure that processes adhere to the brand's strict sustainability benchmarks surrounding waste, energy consumption and gas emissions.

The key to Urban Alley’s eco-model has been the collaboration with local Victorian businesses to develop innovative and organic solutions to reduce its carbon footprint.

Partnering with a neighbouring distillery, for instance, has allowed for both facilities to mitigate the need for the rapid heating-cooling-heating process that requires up to 3000 times more gas than the average Australian home. The exchange
of water at the desired temperature from the brewery to the distillery and vice versa has reduced gas
emissions to now match that of residential consumption.

The development of an on-site bio-waste plant allows for everything but the kitchen sink (well in Urban Alley’s case, spent grain) to be broken down and repurposed as fertiliser. This process also creates natural gas, which will be used to power the brewery. Waste water will be sent to the on-site water treatment plant where solids remaining from the brewing process are settled out and the pH levels tested and corrected to achieve a neutral reading.

Meltzer says he is always looking for next the challenge, and next on the cards is a project to ensure the brewery’s waste water is captured, transported and reused in farm irrigation. Brewery waste water, after the correction process, is high in minerals, salts and proteins.

While the company's signature ‘Urban Ale’ has been in market for over two years and is available in many of Melbourne’s iconic venues including Naked for Satan, The Smith Prahran and The Emerald Peacock, additional SKUs will be launching in September – Urban Lager, Urban APA and Urban Dark.

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