Altitude Chophouse makes sustainability a high priority

Altitude Chophouse & Brewery, of Laramie, Wyo., makes sustainability a priority in its operations.

Winner of a 2012 Torch Award in the category of businesses with 50 to 99 employees, Altitude employs about 55 and is owned by Greg Smith and Karen Robillard.

Altitude, established in 1999, has won more than 25 awards at regional brew festivals.

That’s probably because Altitude refuses to take shortcuts to save on labor and food costs.

In its brewery, the company reuses some water, a heavily used ingredient for any brewer, instead of using chemicals that require a lot of rinsing, head brewer Nathan Venner said.

Altitude uses less than two barrels of water for every barrel of beer produced, he said. The industry considers 3.5 barrels of water for every barrel of beer a sustainable brewing practice.

“Why waste if you don’t have to?” Venner said. “If you can find a way not to waste, then don’t. You can apply that to water or anything, really.”

The brewery also doesn’t can or bottle its beer, instead serving beer from tanks and kegs.

Altitude also takes care of its employees, offering full-time staffers benefits uncommon in the restaurant industry, including health insurance, retirement plans and paid vacation time. The move has helped with retention, with some chefs and managers staying with the company more than 10 years.

“This is their career,” Robillard said, “so we think that benefits are an important part of their job.”

Altitude also plays a strong role in supporting the community. The company makes more than $30,000 cash or in-kind contributions annually to numerous organizations, including American Legion, Centennial Valley and Vedauwoo volunteer fire departments, Wyoming Public Radio, United Way and University of Wyoming.

“We get so many requests for donations that come through our doors at Altitude and we really don’t like to deny anybody,” Robillard said. “We try to do something for almost everybody in the community.”

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