Beer and the Drought
by Jack Hondell

Hello Bob - thought I'd update your readers on what's happening here
in California with our prolonged drought and how it's impacting the
breweries here. One case in particular motivated me to write you since
you and your readers might not have heard that the water board in
Fallbrook, a smaller town in Southern California has imposed restrictions
on Fallbrook Brewing Co., just as the tiny brewer doubled capacity to
meet demand for its craft beers.  To cut monthly water use by about
10 percent, owner Chuck McLaughlin bought an extra 310- tank to
catch water used in the brewing process to reuse it for cleaning
equipment. His new brewhouse includes a chiller that uses two-thirds
less water than his old one.  His problem is that as a small business,
there's no extra money to pay potentially thousands in fines if he
exceeds the limit.

As you know Bob, California has more craft breweries than any other
state and we're proud of it. More than 570 are in operation and
another 240 are slated to open.  That a good thing even if you don't
drink beer because craft breweries contributed $6.5 billion to the state
economy last year alone, producing 3.5 million barrels.

I did some research and found that a typical craft brewery uses up to
7 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of beer. Some in California have
decreased that ratio to less than 5-to-1, but they are still being asked
to cut back to meet the state mandate, which aims for California's
overall urban water use to go down by 25 percent compared to 2013.
No other state in the drought-plagued West has taken such action.

Breweries are digging wells, installing wastewater treatment plants and
seeking exemptions from local water boards that control water use
and can impose fines. Some are shelving planned expansions. If
Mother Nature doesn't bring significant showers and snowstorms this
fall and winter, some breweries may be forced to leave the state.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and other established California breweries,
such as Stone Brewing Co., recently opened plants on the East Coast.
But they say the motive was not the drought but to cut
transportation costs to those markets.  I'm not sure about that now.

Officials in the city of Chico told Sierra Nevada this spring to drop its
water use by 32 percent. The nation's largest private craft brewery
already had cut its usage by 25 percent and said further cuts would
hurt production. The local water board agreed to exempt the water it
uses to produce beer and asked Sierra Nevada to work toward
reducing water used for its restaurant and landscaping by 42 percent.

Bear Republic Brewing Co. has taken some of the most drastic
measures. The company last year pulled out of 15 U.S. markets and
four countries after the Northern California town of Cloverdale
informed the brewery it did not have enough water to sustain it.

But instead of moving, Bear Republic spent $466,000 to dig two wells
for the town of 9,000 residents. It spent an additional $4 million on its
own water treatment system, which uses electrically active microbes to
purify wastewater, allowing the brewery to recycle up to 25 percent of
the water it uses for equipment cleaning.

It's a tough situation for sure but as you  see breweries are doing
their  best to conserve.  As a beer lover I'm proud of that.  To be
honest, I don't know  the answer to it other than to hope the rains
come and things return to normal quickly.  

Thanks Jack for alerting us to efforts of the breweries to work through
the drought.  The story doesn't get enough coverage here on the East
Coast for sure. Hopefully things will improve and soon!

I'd like to  invite everyone to send me their own columns about anything
related to beer/drinking/booze just as Kerri did.   I select the best and
publish them here.  So join in and get writing.

BeerNexus proudly presents

Bob Montemurro
"the ombudsman of beer"

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