By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The idea of crystal-clear mountain springs being the source of great beer has long been an image evoked by the beer industry, from the iconic commercials of Coors to the labels and marketing of today’s craft brewers.
But getting that water — and keeping it usable after the brewing process — are major issues craft brewers and cities must confront on a daily basis.
Water and general sustainability for the beer industry were the focus of a two-day event held in September, put on by the City of Bend and the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center. (A similar event was held in Bellingham, Wash., later in the month.)
The event was meant to be an educational opportunity for brewers while bringing together government officials, regulators and members of the craft beer industry to talk about sustainability and water usage. The workshops provided ideas for brewers and owners wanting to decrease their environmental footprint while improving their bottom lines, and connected them with cost-effective resources and solutions to energy, water and waste issues.
“Great beer starts with great water quality and great ingredients, and we have the luxury of having both here,” said Chris Hodge, the CEO of Worthy Brewing, in greeting attendees to the Sustainable Craft Brewery Workshop. Worthy, which hosted day one of the event, is one of a number of Central Oregon breweries that take sustainability issues seriously.
Of course, Bend is renowned for the quality of its water, which is often cited as one of the reasons the craft beer industry has flourished in the region.
At the workshop, Christina Davenport, industrial pretreatment technician for the city of Bend, talked about why brewery wastewater is of concern to cities in general and Bend in particular. For instance, Davenport pointed out, Bend’s Deschutes Brewery and 10 Barrel Brewing create more than 25,000 of wastewater gallons per day.
“We’re working with breweries to find solutions to reducing what goes to the sewer,” Davenport said. “That includes both the strength of the waste, and reducing the volume going into the sewer line.”
Creating one barrel (or 31 gallons) of beer often results in a brewery creating four to 10 barrels of wastewater, Davenport noted. From every brewery, some of that wastewater is of the “high-strength” variety — from the brewing process or from cleaning — which can carry an extreme pH level and is more difficult for municipalities to treat.
One solution employed by breweries is “side streaming,” or collecting high-strength waste so it can be disposed of separately. For instance, spent hops, grain and yeast can often be used by farms, and are commonly used by farms that have relationships with breweries.
Water wasn’t the only issue at the workshop. The Energy Trust of Oregon presented on how incentives and energy audits can save significant energy costs. Worthy, for instance, worked with Energy Trust and installed energy-efficient lighting, a high-efficiency heating system and solar electric. That resulted in nearly $80,000 in Energy Trust incentives, as well as $16,000 in annual energy savings for Worthy.
The PPRC presented on proven cost-saving sustainability measures, including case studies for breweries on how to reduce usage of energy, water and carbon dioxide.
But water was the focus of day two, the “Source to Brewer to Sewer Tour.” Attendees got an up-close look at the City of Bend’s water system.
The tour gave attendees a better idea of where the water that goes into beer comes from, and what has to happen for it to be treated after the brewing process. It starts with Bend’s surface water intake on Bridge Creek near Tumalo Falls, which is just a few miles from a pristine water source.
Bend also just finished a project that cost tens of millions of dollars, including the new Outback Water Filtration Facility and miles of new pipe connecting intake to the facility. That gives brewers an idea of how much effort and money is put into water quality in municipalities in general, and Bend in specific. Attendees also saw Bend’s water reclamation facility, which deals with breweries’ wastewater on the back end.
In between those stops, four local breweries (Deschutes, 10 Barrel, Crux Fermentation Project and Monkless Belgian Ales) opened their doors to talk about sustainability and water issues.
It’s clear that the idea of municipalities working with breweries on these issues is far from finished. Paul Rheault, Bend’s public works/utilities director, talked with attendees and said he hoped to one day forge a private-public partnership with the breweries to deal with the problems and costs associated with high-strength waste.
“We want the breweries to succeed,” Rheault said. “Thankfully, we have a good water source that’s well treated now for the brewers to use and make a good product.”
The discussion on water and sustainability issues for breweries is far from over. The city of Bend hopes to host a similar event in the future. Jack Harris, founder of Fort George Brewing in Astoria, was in attendance. Fort George recently hired a director of sustainability, and Harris said he would like to have an event similar to this one in his town.
The craft brewery industry has often prided itself on trying to be green and employing sustainable practices. That obviously becomes more difficult as breweries grow, but Bend and the breweries that call it home have shown there are ways to work together to make it easier.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.