February 7, 2023 - By sydneywells
As Marco and Erica set out through the mountains of Vermont in their new season of Humans of the World, they are looking at more than just the scenery. They are searching for people who can help them uncover the culture of Vermont and help them learn more about themselves in the process. The second stop on their journey is to the Alchemist Brewery to meet with the founders, John and Jen Kimmich.
Immediately upon meeting John and Jen, Marco and Erica are accepted into the culture surrounding them and their company. The Alchemist’s mission statement shares three main values: sustainability, inclusivity, and community. This is apparent from the get-go with their many awards and accolades.
“The Alchemist is a family-owned brewery focused on the triple bottom line and using our business as a force for social and environmental good. Providing good jobs to Vermonters, a welcoming gathering space for all, and adding value to our community are central components of our business…”
The Alchemist has received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence twice. This award recognizes efforts made to contribute meaningful improvements to Vermont’s environment. They have received state-given awards for their water management, by reducing the strength and volume of their wastewater. In 2020, they earned the Governor’s Spirit of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Award. The honor celebrates their commitment to hiring and providing outreach for people with disabilities, as well as their accessibility practices for their employees and guests.
John and Jen introduce Marco and Erica to their company culture by taking them into the break room during lunch to talk with the employees, and by letting them partake in a “stretch time” before the team went in for their fitness class. This dedication to employee wellness is something that is not lost on Marco and Erica as they continue to speak with John and Jen and other employees about their experiences.
The Alchemist’s Spotlight on Local Artists
One notable detail of The Alchemist’s building is the mural that has been painted onto the silo on the front of their property. The mural was another connection to the community as John and Jen commissioned local artists to paint the mural as a tribute and symbol of their commitment to the community. The artist of the mural, Will Kasso, posted alongside a picture of the mural the following quote from George Bernard Shaw:
“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will.”
This is not the only original piece of art that The Alchemist has brought into its space. The company has the work of local artists on everything from merchandise and labels, as well as having installations from selected artists on display. There is even a tab on their website dedicated to supplying artist information alongside each piece that is featured. It is clear that The Alchemist has fully devoted itself to enriching the community and the people within it through its commitment to art and local artists.
Pushing for Progress
“I think our culture is only enriched with adding different employees with different types of needs…it’s beneficial for everyone.”- Molly Lauridsen, Wellness Director at The Alchemist
The team at The Alchemist does not just devote themselves to promoting these causes during business hours but, as Marco and Erica learn, it is a full-time commitment. As champions of accessibility in the workplace, the crew participates annually in the Heady Trotter. The Heady Trotter is a race that raises money for Stowe Adaptive Sports, which uses athletics to improve the quality of life for those with disabilities. This race is so admired by the employees at The Alchemist that even during the pandemic they met up to compete together in the remote running of the race.
“We feel the responsibility to use our platform and voice in the Vermont business, craft brewing, and our local community networks to educate, celebrate and co-create with the aim of building a more inclusive community, economy, and world for ALL.”
Not only is The Alchemist changing the landscape for disabled people in the state of Vermont, but they are also pushing for more diversity and inclusivity for people of color as well. An Action Plan to Combat Systemic Racism, which was written with the help of Dr. Curtiss Reed, Jr. and the Vermont Partnership on Fairness + Diversity, lays out three key pieces to make a change. These main components are: “ensuring anti-racist education in our public schools, strengthening our brand positioning within the multicultural marketplace, and positioning Vermont as a desirable destination for consumers of color.”
How The Alchemist is Giving Back
This will be the 10th year that John and Jen will be awarding scholarships to high school graduates within their community, and the 6th year that they have been doing it through their foundation, the Alchemist Foundation. The Alchemist Foundation has expanded past providing just scholarships, but it now directly combats problems facing the youth and funding projects that support and uplift young people. The foundation works in collaboration with local high schools and technical and career centers, and partners with local nonprofits that work with the youth.
“We’re passionate about making sure every young person knows that they have a positive future in Vermont, and can explore the many paths to realizing their dreams.”- The Alchemist Foundation Website
The locations that they are reaching have also expanded. What began as one school has transformed into a number of high schools along Route 100 receiving support from The Alchemist Foundation. Spreading support both financially and through appreciating the concerns and hopes that the younger generations are passionate about has created a valuable system for the youth in their community.
The Alchemist: Striving for Sustainability
The Alchemist has pushed farther in their search for a more environmentally-conscious way to run their business. With a current focus on sustainability in their water-usage, energy, and waste production, they have crafted solutions that are challenging traditional corporate culture which does not give any attention to environmental impact.
“It is our responsibility to commit ourselves to using less energy, choosing clean energy, repurposing waste and investing in new technologies.”
The water used at the brewery goes through a process of side-streaming, in which “high strength” waste is removed from the water and given to a facility to be composted. Following this, the water is then diverted into two 5,000 gallon tanks. Here, the water goes through an aerobic bacterial process, where it can then be released to the Stowe municipal wastewater treatment facility. To date, the facilities’ BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) is less than that of the average four-person family through the work of these processes.
The Alchemist recently built a “solar canopy” over 60% of their customer parking lot. This not only protects cars from potential weather but is also offsetting around ⅓ of the total energy consumption of the brewery. To keep the concentration on renewable energy, any excess power produced is donated to the local senior living facility.
The two breweries creating the beer for The Alchemist have also taken on new procedures to ensure that there is no avoidable waste being produced. With an aim to lead the craft beer industry into the world of net-zero waste and eventually be 100% trash free, they have found new methods at managing how the waste is used. Working alongside the suppliers to learn how they can get their materials recycled and repurposed has been a major step toward this goal. Both facilities have also been able to add a new system that allows them to recycle the 600-800 grain bags that they go through each week.
Going Above and Beyond…But to Where?
John and Jen have set many goals that have progressed their company beyond the typical, and with such a focus on being leaders in change for the industry it begs the question: Where do they go from here? The owners have done so much to transform their business and their community into a more diverse, accepting, and sustainable place, can they do more?
“This work is lifelong, slow, and necessary. Our goal is to listen to diverse voices, and to humanize, not politicize inclusion work.”
The answer, they’re sure going to try. Acknowledging that the work that needs to be done is never-ending might seem life a defeatist attitude, but it means quite the opposite. John and Jen understand that with each step towards their three values, they are moving other communities with them. Whether it be their geographic community, the craft beer industry, or the people who come in for a visit to The Alchemist, they continue to push past invisible barriers and create progress everyday. With their creation of new plans to expand their work for diversity and inclusion, they have made it clear that they do not plan on stopping their efforts anytime soon.
What began as a simple interview between John and Jen and our beloved hosts has quickly turned into an inspiring tale. Two unlikely heroes who are continuing to fight battles much larger than themselves because it is the right thing to do, and who are making progress each day against the odds. As Marco and Erica prepare to head onto their next adventure they take with them everything they have learned from John and Jen and the team at The Alchemist.
Humans of the World Seasons 3 Episode 2 is available to stream now.