How many people does it take to make a batch of recycled spruce beer? The answer is: a lot. How do we know that? Because we did it!
For our Tree to Table initiative, we wanted to make your Christmas trees into tasty beer. Brewing is our thing, so we could easily bring that know-how to the table. But for such a special project to come together, we knew we would need the expertise, support and hard work of a lot of other people.
Curious about how we bottled your tree? This is how it went down…
Lowlander Tree to Table – Getting the message out
Did you hear the one about the brewery making beer from Christmas trees? No joke: literally millions of people heard about what we were doing in time to donate their tree. The story of our Tree to Table initiative was picked up by all the major news agencies in the Netherlands: we appeared in print in nationwide newspapers, on your screens via four TV networks and online in more than 100 posts; four national radio stations also broadcast our plea for trees. In fact, news of our campaign broke all over the world: as far west as Canada and the US, and as far east as Russia and Japan.
Thanks to all this publicity, so many of you wanted us to turn your Christmas tree into spruce beer that we could have filled our quota 20 times. We actually had to turn down a juicy offer of 4,500 kilos of Christmas trees from the municipality of Wijk bij Duurstede, as well as 100 trees from the Museumplein in Amsterdam. That’s a lot of untapped beer, but there’s always next year – with Tree to Table, we’re in it for the long haul.
Picking up Christmas trees
Talking of long hauls, all credit to our friends Arno and Mireille from The Holy Kauw, who drove 2,587 kilometres in 72 hours over six days to collect Christmas trees from 150 addresses all over the Netherlands. From Saaksum in the north to Maastricht in the south, via picture-perfect landscapes and some of the prettiest towns you’ve never heard of, our tree-collecting duo worked 12-hour days, powered by eight litres of coffee and 60 sandwiches – and the generosity of the people they met on the road.
The job was not without its difficulties: to cram all the trees into their van, the pair perfected a somewhat unique loading method, which was photographed countless times by passers by and earned them the nickname ‘The Tree Whisperers’. Every night, they had to shake needles out of their hair, shoes and everywhere in between. However, they got the job done without losing their Christmas cheer. Result!
Recycling Christmas trees
The next step was to pick and preserve the needles of the collected trees – that’s where our squad of friendly specialists came in. We met so many cool and generous people, like British biologist Josh Worby, who shared his specialist knowledge with us, and Hans Kramer, who let us rifle through his contacts book. Or Harry Vernooy, who provided us with a covered storage area for the trees we collected, and Henk Ravenhorst and Marianne van Kaam, who both offered us a space to pick and process the trees, plus teams of helpers (in the end we took up the generous offer of Martin from De Wijkse Loods instead: many thanks to him and our 15 fleet-fingered volunteers from De Bossewaard, who picked a total of 22 kilos of needles with us. And not forgetting Paul Spies, who showed us how to make paper from pine needles. We mean it when we say that we couldn’t have done any of this without them – they know that there is always a cold beer waiting for them at Lowlander HQ.
From Christmas tree… to table
We’ve smashed the first stage of Tree to Table: our first batch of Winter IPA made purely with recycled pine needles is currently being brewed, and will be ready to taste this autumn. A resinous and refreshing taste of Christmas past, it will definitely be one for the cellar if your tree went into making it.
But really, this is just the beginning. When we launched Tree to Table, we promised we wouldn’t waste a splinter of your trees. We meant it: a few kilos of needles are currently being made into artisan cheese by Booij Kaasmakers, to be served at our ‘Tree to Table’ Botanical Brewkitchen dinners later in the year; a further half kilo is being sent to Schut papermakers, that are testing to make paper to use as bottle labels and menu cards for the pop-ups. Once the trunks have dried out, they will be fashioned into bottle corks for our limited-edition Brut beer (made with spruce and Champagne yeast), plus we have plans for wooden bottle openers, coasters and menu-card holders for the pop-ups. Anything leftover wood, we will shred and donate to farms, beekeepers, and local voedselbossen.The spirit of Christmas 2018 lives on – watch this space for the next instalment of Tree to Table…
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(images by The Holy Kauw Company)