What does water quality have to do with happy hour?
Some people drink beer to cool off and relax on a hot, summer day, while others enjoy trying different flavors and styles from different breweries and regions.
Whether you are one, the other, or someone in between, something all beer drinkers should agree on is that water quality is important.
Malt, hops, yeast, and flavorings are the most obvious ingredients that make up the flavor profile of a beer. But what you can’t easily taste is the most important ingredient -- fresh, quality water.
Good beer and water quality are linked. Throughout the history of beer making, brewers have sited their breweries in the places with the highest quality water.
Depending on the Resource
Communities and breweries both depend on clean water. Towns and cities need drinking water and opportunities for outdoor recreation on the water.
Since beer is around 90 percent water, breweries can’t produce beer without a sustainable source of clean water.
Given that brewers need a lot of water for a gallon of beer, it is in their interest to ensure there is a large supply of clean water to go around.
Straight tap water can contain trace minerals, salts, and other elements that might also affect the taste of the brew, so having clean, pure water to start with is an important part of running a brewery.
No matter how large or small a brewer is, they will need water and will be affected by poor water quality.
Breweries Supporting Water Conservation
Photo: Tröegs Independent Brewing
Pennsylvania hosts more than 300 breweries -- resulting in a lot of businesses and individuals who can be champions for the cause of water conservation.
The water resources that are enjoyed by hikers, bikers, and boaters are the same as those needed by breweries.
Many people enjoy a cold beer after long day on the trail or the water -- it only makes sense that brewers and beer drinkers would come together to support the protection of water quality.
Many breweries in Pennsylvania are already taking extra steps in their communities to benefit the natural environment they and their communities need to thrive.
Beer is often connected with places, and beer styles are often described in regional terms -- think Boston lager, East Coast IPAs, brewed from the snow-capped mountains in Colorado, Belgian-style. Several breweries in Pennsylvania’s special landscapes are helping to support their conservation.
The Kittatinny Ridge and Tröegs
Tröegs Brewery in Hershey is a partner with The Nature Conservancy in an effort to protect land along Pennsylvania’s Kittatinny Ridge, which, along with many other benefits, helps to provide clean water.
A portion of the proceeds from the Tröeg’s beer “Trail Day” is dedicated for the Tröegs Trail Day Fund.
The fund will help protect 15,000 acres of the most critical, connected lands on and next to the Kittatinny Ridge -- from the Mason-Dixon Line into New York state through the Delaware Water Gap.
“Water is by far the biggest ingredient in beer,” said Tröegs founding brother and brewmaster, John Trogner. “It’s the canvas that we paint on, and without a reliably clean and healthy source of water, great beer simply isn’t possible. That’s why we’re excited to be partnering with The Nature Conservancy.”
Lehigh Valley Greenways and Bonn Place Brewing
In Bethlehem, Bonn Place Brewing is an active partner in Brewer's of the Delaware Valley, Coalition for the Delaware Watershed, Audubon Society, and the Our Pocono Waters Campaign.
The Brewer's of the Delaware Valley promote the protection of the watershed as a reliable, clean water source that benefits the people, birds, and communities of the region.
Bonn Place is scheduled to plant upwards of 1,200 trees through a joint cooperative project with the City of Bethlehem.
"We'll be doing this along the city's Watershed with funds raised by Our 'Tattoos for Trees' campaign," says Sam Masotto, founder of Bonn Place Brewing.
"Not only is beer, by volume, mostly water...water is just as important to beer as malt, hops, and yeast. Without a reliable, clean, and ample water supply, beer is not possible...and I, for one, don't want to live in that world," Masotto said.
Schuylkill Highlands and Victory Brewing Co.
In Downingtown, Victory Brewing uses profits to give back to the local waterways.
In an effort to benefit the Brandywine Watershed (the local water source Victory uses for its beer), a portion of every “Headwaters Ale” sold is donated to the Headwaters Grant.
This money is used by nonprofit organizations for water quality conservation projects.
“With funding from Victory’s Headwaters Grant program, Brandywine Valley Association has been able to restore more than one mile of Little Buck Run in Parkesburg and Sadsbury Township. This restoration will improve water quality, protect the stream, and provide a model for future restorations,” said the Brandywine Valley Association.
Whether you own a brewery, enjoy beer, or not, water quality effects all of us. Water is linked to weather, climate, energy, public health, and recreation.
To learn more about how DCNR’s mission is connected to clean water, check the DCNR website; or check the Department of Environmental Protection’s water conservation efforts at the DEP website.
You also can reach out to your local brewery to see what they are doing to help improve and conserve water.
Additional information about Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscapes also is available at the DCNR website.
In the meantime, the most enjoyable way to support the conservation of our water resources may be to have a beer!