Looking down on a glass of beer with a narrow frothy head. The base of the glass is surrounded by plump green hops.
Brewer Supply Group Hops are part of the picture. Water is 95 percent of beer's ingredients. © Jake Keeler

Stories in Delaware

OktoberForest in Delaware

Celebrating the connection between healthy forests, clean water and good beer with Dogfish Head Brewing.

This article was updated on September 29, 2020.

Did you know that 95 percent of beer is water? And that more than half of our drinking water is filtered by America's forests?

That's why The Nature Conservancy is celebrating fall with OktoberForest, a collaboration with brewers across the country to raise awareness about the important role that forests play in our water supply. 

OktoberForest Love beer? Love forests!

Dogfish Head Brewing: Delaware’s First Brewpub

Dogfish Head was founded by Sam and Mariah Calagione in 1995 as a small startup in Rehoboth Beach. Back then, Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats was Delaware’s first brewpub and the smallest commercial brewery in America. Since then, the company has rapidly expanded—moving production to near Milton and keeping a focus on community and conservation.

Since 2007, Dogfish Head has donated proceeds from their annual 8K Dogfish Dash to the Delaware chapter of The Nature Conservancy, generating more than $979,000.

“Protecting wild lands in many cases protects the ingredients that go into our beers,” Calagione says. “The Dogfish Dash dollars have gone to improving the Edward H. McCabe Nature Preserve, which is right in Milton. They’re doing trail work and wildflower meadows.”

Through Dogfish Head’s Beer & Benevolence program, their staff has also contributed time and energy to help support tree planting projects and other improvements to TNC’s preserves in Sussex County. 

Dogfish Head Brewing logo. An illustration of a small dogfish shark is shown inside a green oval with the brewery's name.
Dogfish Head Brewing Based in Milton, Delaware's first brewpub is now one of the largest brewers in the country.

Conserving Beer's Main Ingredient

"Beer is 90 percent water, and we can't avoid a certain amount of waste," says Mark Carter, Dogfish Head’s Beer & Benevolence guru. "But instead of looking away and plowing forward, we're thoughtful about how we handle it and strive to become a ripple in the pond of re-use and education. Brewing is so water-intensive that it makes sense for us to focus a lot of our effort on water.”

Dogfish Head is committed to conserving water resources.

  • Reuse and irrigation: The brewery doesn’t just let its wastewater go down the drain. Water is recaptured and sent to local farms. At the farms, the water is used in spray irrigation, where it soaks into the soil and recharges groundwater.
  • Rain barrels: Instead of trashing the large, plastic ingredient barrels, Dogfish Head donates them to organizations like the Center for the Inland Bays and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources to make rain barrels. A house that sees an inch of rain in 24 hours can produce more than 700 gallons of runoff, and rain barrels help collect and store that water. It can be used to water lawns, wash cars and clean gardening tools. Meanwhile, water bills go down and streams and rivers are protected from litter, fertilizer, pet waste and motor oil.
  • Reforestation: Dogfish co-workers and their friends have partnered with the Delaware chapter of The Nature Conservancy in recent years to plant 500 shortleaf pine trees at TNC’s Ponders Tract Preserve. The Ponders tract was once used by a lumber company for loblolly pine timber production. Now, TNC is transforming the loblolly plantation into a native coastal forest of oak, hickory, tulip poplar, sassafras, red maple and other hardwoods. The native trees dramatically cut stormwater runoff, prevent evaporation, encourage soil stabilization and help clean water before it makes it to local streams and rivers. Dogfish employees have also helped with trail improvements and maintenance projects at TNC’s other public preserve, the Edward H. McCabe Preserve.