Onion Pub & Brewery becomes first local business to receive Conservation@Work certification

How one local family is building a sustainable business


The native trees, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers adorning the parking lot islands of Onion Pub & Brewery only tell part of the story. Meeting with BACT |Barrington Area Conservation Trust Conservation@Work coordinator Beth Adler, Jennifer Kainz shared how the Kainz family is taking positive strides to make a difference in the natural world through habitat restoration, energy conservation, water conservation, recycling, and on-site composting.


Fourteen years ago, the Kainz family purchased the Lake Barrington property where they would eventually build the Onion Pub & Brewery. A garbage dump covered the back two acres of the property, while the bottom of the 11-acre pond was littered with a liner, tires, and concrete. There were no plants or animals to be found. “Our first mission was to restore the land to its natural beauty,” says Jennifer’s husband, Mike Kainz. So the Kainz family worked with Tony Hafner, a high school science teacher and seasonal landscaper to reestablish a native prairie which now provides habitat for cormorants, herons, ducks, turtles, and a host of frogs.

“Our goal of brewing great beer has always been coupled with a solid commitment to being as resourceful and energy-efficient as possible,” says Mike. Energy-efficient walls made of concrete with an insulated core and a roof constructed of structural insulated panels (SIPs) combined with geothermal technology help the Onion Pub & Brewery reduce its operating expenses and carbon footprint.

To add to the efficiency of their brewery, the Kainzes created an underground “beer bunker” to maintain a constant temperature of 68 degrees F, and in 2011 decided to start raising their own hops. This fall, the vines yielded this first usable flowers.

Onion Pub after pc Jennifer KainzBecause it takes 4-5 gallons of water to produce each gallon of beer, The Onion Pub & Brewery uses reverse osmosis technology to filter their brewing water and reuses the “wastewater” to wash brewing tanks and floors. Any excess water is either used to irrigate the hop farm or returned to the pond. Spent grain becomes animal feed for a local pig farm while organic waste is recycled at the Onion Pub & Brewery’s on-site vermi-composting “wormery.” “Composting food scraps is my passion,” says Jennifer who is one of the founding members of the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition. “Local food is on our radar next,” she adds, looking ahead to next year’s garden-fresh specials from Onion Pub & Brewery’s expanding vegetable garden.

“We are so happy and proud to have the opportunity to recognize all the conservation work the Onion Pub and Brewery is doing – it is amazing and inspiring!” says BACT’s Conservation @ Work coordinator Beth Adler. “It is my job to find these local businesses in the Barrington Area that are leaders in the conservation effort and get their stories told. I know I want to patronize local businesses that are making strides in this direction.”

If you are a conservation-minded local business, BACT wants to recognize and partner with you. Please contact beth@bactrust.org or (847) 387-3149 for information.”