Susie Island in Minnesota
Susie Island in Minnesota Susie Island in Minnesota © Greg Lais

Stories in Minnesota

Q&A with Bent Paddle Brewing's Byron Tonnis

Celebrating OktoberForest in Minnesota

Bent Paddle Brewing Co.

It’s fall, and in Minnesota that means fall color, football and festivals. The Nature Conservancy is joining the fun with OktoberForest, a collaboration with local breweries to raise awareness about the important role that forests play in our water supply. We asked Bryon Tonnis, CEO of Bent Paddle Brewing Company in Duluth, Minnesota, to share his story. Where does Bent Paddle get the water it uses to make its beer and how much do you use?

Bryon Tonnis: We take our water from Lake Superior, and, depending on which beer we’re making, we use between 5 and 6 gallons of water per gallon of beer. We also use water in the production process for cooling and cleaning. Water is core to our business, and we are always looking for new ways to reclaim and conserve it throughout our operation. Why is Lake Superior water special?

Bryon: It’s very cold all year round, which makes it ideal for cooling our beer at different stages while using less energy. It’s also soft water, which means we can easily make several kinds of beer from a pilsener to a black ale by adding different types of minerals. Why do brewers like you care about Minnesota’s forests?

Bryon: Without water, we’d be out of business because 90-plus percent of every can of our beer is made of Lake Superior water. Forests help reduce erosion and keep that water clean. In addition to clean water, do forests provide other benefits?

Bryon: My partners—Colin and Laura Mullen and my wife Karen—and I believe that spending time outdoors on water and in the woods is a great way to rejuvenate. We encourage our employees to get outdoors by providing a suite of kayaks they can use, buying Minnesota state park passes for everyone and reimbursing them for trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Minnesota’s forests provide great recreation opportunities for us, our employees and our customers.

Healthy Forests = Clean Water = Great Beer Beer and forests may seem like an odd connection, but forests provide 40% of the world's usable water, beer's main ingredient.

If you like beer, you should love forests.

Beer is 95% water. And 40% of the world’s usable water comes from forests. Help protect beer’s main ingredient. Help us plant one billion trees!