How Helios puts the power of the sun in every glass - Choose Brisbane

LMBA Winner Spotlight: How Helios puts the power of the sun in every glass

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Everything in a brewery requires heating up or cooling down – and for Scott Shomer, the owner of Yeerongpilly brewery Helios, that presented an opportunity. 

Scott, an environmental engineer turned craft beer baron, designed the brewing infrastructure at Helios from the ground up to capitalise on Queensland’s abundance of renewable resources, while maximising his energy and water efficiency and minimising his waste footprint. 

The result is a brewery that sets new industry standards for sustainability, all while producing big, bold, flavourful beers that have won Helios a loyal following among local craft beer aficionados, and have recently found their way into major bottle shops such as BWS and Dan Murphy’s. 

For their efforts, Scott and his Helios team were honoured at the 2021 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards – an award that’s opened up even more doors for this solar-powered success story.

Solar, so good 

In Greek mythology, Helios is the god of the sun. It’s an apt name for Scott’s brewery, which uses photovoltaic solar panels and solar thermal systems to heat its brewing water, power cold water storage, and export excess energy to the grid. 

Amongst the brewery’s many other eco-friendly initiatives, Helios also does its own deliveries around Brisbane with a Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV (Mitsubishi Electric Vehicle) that runs on solar power generated by the brewery. 

“I always said that if I was going to start a brewery, I wanted to see just how sustainable I could make it,” Scott says. “I’m an environmental engineer, and I’ve literally lectured people for Al Gore and the Australian Conservation Foundation about why businesses need to become more sustainable and climate-friendly. So when I set up my own business, it was truly put-up-or-shut-up time.

“I engineered it from the ground up to use as little power, water and gas as possible. We use about a tenth of the power as the average brewery of a similar size; about a third of the water; and we produce virtually no waste. Sustainability has gone into absolutely every aspect of the business, down to the toilet paper we use and the bamboo cutlery used by the food trucks that come here. 

“You’d be surprised how much change you can make just by observing what’s going on in your own business.” 

Scott openly shares his innovative engineering techniques and methodologies with the industry to maximise the good they can do. With electricity and gas prices rising, Scott says his initiatives aren’t just eco-friendly; they’re also good for the bottom line. 

“Being green has had a big return for us,” he says. “We’re actually more competitive as a result of these techniques, and our energy use being so low has helped us to weather challenges like COVID.” 

Green wins gold 

As a result of the brewery’s unique approach, Helios won the Urban Utilities Award for Environmental Sustainability in Business at the 2021 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards (LMBAs). The award honours companies that demonstrate excellence in clean business practices and sustainable resource use. 

“You don’t ever expect to win an award for what you do for the environment,” Scott says, “so we were thrilled just to be nominated. But when they called out our name, I sat there stunned. I couldn’t believe that our little brewery had won… it was just an amazing, exhilarating feeling.” 

Scott says winning the LMBA has opened up new opportunities and possibilities for his business. 

“We’re a tiny little business, and we’re up against some behemoths,” he says. “For a small business, any recognition is good. Any PR is good. But to win something like the LMBA, it takes you to a whole new level. I can’t say enough about the contacts we’ve made, and the people we’ve been introduced to that are just so passionate about seeing businesses like ours succeed. 

“Having the attention of the Lord Mayor’s Office, and being on a first name basis with them, is an amazing thing. And to be part of this community with the Brisbane Economic Development Agency (BEDA) has changed our business in incalculable ways. BEDA has even asked us to do presentations and talk about how easy it is to be sustainable in business, so it’s launched us into a space where we can help other businesses to be sustainable, too.” 

After seeing the impact that winning an LMBA has had on his business, Scott encourages all eligible businesses to throw their hat in the ring for this year’s awards. 

“The LMBAs are such an amazing opportunity,” he says. “You lose nothing by entering. If you’re doing something creative, if you’re passionate about what you’re doing with your business, I encourage you to apply, because just getting into that community is so important. 

“To be nominated is an amazing honour. And to actually pull one down… for a small business, it’s life-changing.” 

About the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards

Celebrating its 17th year, the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding achievements of local businesses who have inspired, innovated and excelled in these past 12 months.

All Brisbane businesses are encouraged to apply as there are 11 diverse categories including Product Innovation, High-growth Business, Outstanding Micro and Small Business, Social Enterprise and Environmental Sustainability.

Being recognised as a LMBA finalist or winner provides a unique opportunity that extends far beyond the winning moment. It accelerates business growth, forges all-important connections and raises the profiles of the businesses to achieve great success. Winners join a high-calibre group of LMBA alumni that have gone on to shape Brisbane’s business community.

Nominations are now open and close on 15 July. Visit lmba.com.au to apply.

Learn more about LMBA