Facility Executive – Creating Intelligent Buildings

Friday Funny: Pour That Cat A Cold One

Photo: Empirical Brewery

Brewster keeps his eyes wide open for any signs of rodents. (Photo: The Guardian Brewing Co.)

Keeping a facility free of pests an important task, so it might be surprising to learn that some employees aren’t even paid for their hard work and dedication to the task. But the work is its own reward for the cats whose job it is to keep breweries rodent-free.

Some breweries are going back to the basics when it comes to protecting brewing ingredients from rats and mice who might carry diseases. In Muncie, IN, two new breweries have “hired” cats for the job.

The Guardian Brewing Company’s Brewster is an orange and white cat who goes to work when the lights go out at the facility. Brewster was rescued by the brewery’s owners from the Muncie Animal Shelter, according to The Star Press, and he’s treated like royalty now. The brewers even created a signature, seasonal beer named after him: “Brewster’s Bitter Biter.”

Heywood, the brewery cat at Elm Street Brewing Company. (Photo: Corey Ohlenkamp/The Star Press)

Also in Muncie, the Elm Street Brewing Company has its own brewery cat, Heywood. The handsome tabby was rescued by co-owner Bill Lett, who found him near his house. Lett nursed him back to health and brought him to the business. Since then, he’s kept the brewery pest-free by prowling the facility late at night for mice.

Brewery cats are willing to take on even the most challenging of rat problems. In mid-2016, rat complaints in Chicago were up 67 percent from 2015. In fact, Chicago was recently named the rattiest city in the United States on Orkin’s list of the top 50 metropolitan “rat nests.”

The Empirical Brewery team takes a well-deserved rest. (Photo: Empirical Brewery)

When other pest control methods failed to keep the Windy City rats away, Empirical Brewery adopted four feral felines through the Tree House Humane Society’s Cats at Work program, which encourages the adoption of feral cats for working purposes. The cats — named Venkman, Raymond, Egon, and Gozer after the movie “Ghostbusters” — proved to be much more cost-effective than monthly extermination treatments that didn’t get rid of the rats: The staff hasn’t seen a single rodent since the kitties arrived on the scene. Sadly, Gozer recently passed away, but the rest of the team is still on the job.

Photo: Empirical Brewery

“After throwing out dozens of 50 pound grain bags we decided to make a change. We haven’t seen any varmints or lost a single grain bag since the cats arrived in the brewery, nor have they encountered anything (pests steer clear of cats),” the brewery’s owners state on their website. “Chicago’s best hope of combating its rat problem is with feral cats, in our opinion.”

Photo: Empirical Brewery

Brewster, Heywood and the Empirical Brewery cats are among the many felines that have been featured on the Instagram page, @distillerycats, which has more than 9,600 followers and nearly 700 posts of adorable brewery cats across the country. The page is devoted to “Celebrating the spirited tradition of working-class cats at distilleries, breweries, wineries, bars, pubs, cafes and liquor stores.”