View from the summit of Brockway Mountain of  Michigan's Upper Peninsula forests in peak fall colors.
View from Brockway Mountain View from the summit of Brockway Mountain of Michigan's Upper Peninsula forests in peak fall colors. © Jason Whalen/Big Foot Media

Stories in Michigan

Clean Water, Great Beer

Why forests and freshwater matter to Michigan brewers.

If you like beer, you should love forests.

Beer has four main ingredients: water, grain, hops and yeast. While water may seem like beer’s simplest ingredient, there's a lot involved in getting that clean water to our taps.

Shiawassee River, Michigan
Love beer? Love Forests! OktoberForest is a month-long celebration of clean water, great beer, and the forests that make it all possible. © Jason Whalen/Fauna Creative

Clean, plentiful water depends on healthy surrounding natural areas, like forests. Forty percent of the world’s usable water is stored and filtered through forests. From the tree canopy all the way down to root systems, every part of a forest plays a critical role in cleaning and protecting our water supply. 

The entire state of Michigan lies within a Great Lake watershed, so maintaining healthy forests creates a thriving ecosystem. 

It’s not an obvious connection: beer and forests. But, we hope the next time you enjoy a pint, you give a nod to the trees.

Our thanks to the brewers and cideries participating in OktoberForest in Michigan!

Why Forests and Freshwater Matter to Michigan Brewers

Whether you call Michigan the Great Lakes State or the Great Beer State, you can join these local breweries and say, “Cheers to OktoberForest!” Tweet a picture to @nature_mi of our #OktoberForest coasters you can find at these breweries:

Atwater Brewery (Detroit)

Batch Brewing Company (Detroit)

B. Nektar (Ferndale)

Brew Detroit (Detroit)

Brewery Becker (Brighton)

Cedar Springs Brewing Company (Cedar Springs)

Dearborn Brewing (Dearborn)

Distant Whistle Brewhouse (Vicksburg)

Earthen Ales (Traverse City)

Eastern Market Brewing Co. (Detroit)

Ellison Brewing + Spirits (East Lansing)

Founders (Grand Rapids & Detroit)

Frankenmuth Brewery (Frankenmuth)

Guardian Brewing Company (Saugatuck)

Harmony Brewing Company (Grand Rapids)

Lake Charlevoix Brewing (Charlevoix)

Latitude 42 (Kalamazoo)

Liberty Street Brewing Company (Plymouth)

The Maple Grille (Hemlock)

Midland Brewing (Midland)

The Mitten Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids)

One Well Brewing (Kalamazoo)

Oracle Brewing (Saginaw)

Ore Dock Brewing Co. (Marquette)

Paddle Hard Brewing (Grayling)

Pigeon Hill Brewing Company (Muskegon)

Rappourt (Ann Arbor)

Rare Bird Brew (Traverse City)

Right Brain Brewery (Traverse City)

River's Edge Brewing Company (Milford)

Saugatuck Brewing Company (Saugatuck/Douglas)

Schmohz Brewing (Grand Rapids & Petoskey)

Short’s Pub (Bellaire)

Silver Spruce Brewing Company (Traverse City)

Snowbelt Brewing Company (Gaylord)

Third Monk Brewing Company (South Lyon)

Tri City Brewing (Bay City)


Help Us Plant a Billion Trees


Our Plant a Billion Trees campaign is a forest restoration effort with the goal of planting one billion trees across the planet. One BILLION is a big number, but we know we can do it with your help. Your support will put trees in the ground, creating healthy forests and fresh water.

We asked the brewers: “What does the forest mean to you and your beer?”

Andy and Dane
Distant Whistle Brewing Andy and Dane © Distant Whistle Brewing

Dane Bosel: ”At the Distant Whistle Brewhouse, we understand the importance of forest preservation as well as forestry management. The water we use at our brewery in Vicksburg is drawn from natural wells, which, while higher in hard minerals, comes out clear and clean. This clarity comes from the filtration of water the rough the soil and root systems of the local flora, including many of our forested areas. Acts of deforestation or neglect can lead to erosion of the soil and root systems, therein degrading the quality of the water table and aquifers leading to the wells. Bad water equals bad beer, great water equals great beer! So, take a can or bottle of tour favorite brew out for a hike in the woods and realize it's all connected!”

Jessica Bridges of Dearborn Brewing
Dearborn Brewing Jessica Bridges of Dearborn Brewing © Jessica Strachan/Metromode

Jessica Bridges: “Beer contains 85-90% water; the quality of that water used in the brewing process is critical to the quality of the end product. High quality agricultural products such as barley, wheat, oats and hops are also necessary for quality beer. Obviously, seasonal variations or difficulties due to climate change are of utmost importance to brewers. With a healthy environment, high quality water and ingredients may be sourced, in turn producing good beer. What we make is only as good as the ingredients that come from a healthy water and farm system.”

Andrew and Jamie Kidwell-Brix
Earthen Ales Andrew and Jamie Kidwell-Brix © Jamie Kidwell-Brix

Andrew & Jamie: “We like to brew beer with a sense of place. In northern Michigan, we're fortunate to be surrounded by forest and fresh water. As former sustainability professionals, we know the importance of healthy forests in maintaining clean water and air. Without these ecosystems to produce high-quality ingredients (like Lake Michigan water!), we wouldn't be able to make our beer. Our northern Michigan forests inspired our Juniper Rye, an IPA that reminds us of the natural beauty that is all around us.”

Dana Mate Dones
Mitten Brewing Dana Mate Dones © Mitten Brewing

Dana Mate Dones: “The brewing industry as a whole has assumed the role as stewards of our community. As such we are responsible for the general health of our local forests and waters, and how we impact them. Not only are we constantly seeking ways to improve sustainability practices, but we communicate & collaborate within the industry in an effort to share successes. This year we have been focusing on reducing our water waste which is really about the impact of local water on our beer. Water is beer = beer is water. With that mentality everything else is pretty simple; keep the water/forests/environment clean so we can keep drinking good beer.”

TJ and Chris
One Well TJ and Chris © One Well Brewing

TJ & Chris: “The forest means a lot to the culture at One Well. We have one side of our brewery tap room that we actually call "The Forest" because we have a mural of a forest on the wall by the taps and a full tree hanging over that bar! Outside of that, the forest represents life and growth and we place a lot of value in nature and our state's abundant natural resources.”

Joe Walters
Liberty Street Brewing Joe Walters © Liberty Street Brewing Co.

Joe Walters: “With both of our breweries right next to Rouge River and the parks that embank it, we get to enjoy wooded areas, and the numerous lakes that form from the river.  We are aware of how we use water in our process, and are always trying to conserve as much as we can.  My Grandfather started the Rescue the Rouge program back in the 70’s, so I was brought up respecting our resources.

Supporting TNC initiatives that address food and water sustainability
Dave Kepler Supporting TNC initiatives that address food and water sustainability © Midland Brewing

Dave Kepler: “Midland Brewing is located close to the Historic Red Keg Lumber Camp. While lumber is/was a big part of our state’s past, it’s really important to us that the FOREST will always be a part of Michigan future.”

Tina Schuett
Rare Bird Brewing Tina Schuett © Rare Bird Brewing

Tina Schuett: “Forests help create clean water and without clean water we wouldn't be able to make beer. So care for our forests so we can keep making great beer.”

Nate Muellenberg
Snowbelt Brewing Nate Muellenberg © Snowbelt Brewing

Nate Muellenberg: “A healthy forest helps filter and regulate water into the watershed. Our local water comes from a well, surrounded by forests, and it’s simple: a healthy forest equals better water quality for our beer. With beer being up to 95% water, you want your main ingredient to be the best!”

Jake, Joe and Jesse from Ore Dock Brewing
Ore Dock Brewing Jake, Joe and Jesse from Ore Dock Brewing © Ore Dock Brewing
Ore Dock Brewing Co.

Kris Wierenga: “As mankind has altered and engineered our environment to suit society's needs and the wheels of industry, forests have all too often been the victims of that growth by matter of proximity, value of material, and the disconnect between LED screens and the smell of the leaves. While these wild places are often the building blocks, the timber frames and the fuels that kindle, for us, their true value is immeasurable. At Ore Dock Brewing Co. in the heart of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we are proud to support our forests, our watersheds and our wild places, knowing that these environments are all connected by a common thread—community. That is why we brew and to that we raise our glass.

Master brewer Chris Else ©Patrick Blair/Atwater Brewery
OktoberForest MI Atwater
OktoberForest MI Atwater OktoberForest MI Atwater

Chris Else: “The forests mean a great deal to our beer! I think everyone can attest to that. More importantly, since the forests are so crucial in beer production, this asks the question: ‘How can we return the favor?’ Being able to give our waste such as used grains to urban farming in the Detroit area, whether it be for composting or actual use on the farms, is hugely important to our business, and to those businesses where we contribute. Without forests, we would have no mineral-rich water to produce our great tasting beer. We would be lost without them! It’s so important to maintain and to give back to our forests, no matter what... Prost!

Where Do Beers Come From? Find out what happens when a forest and a river love each other very much.