Your favorite Oregon brew is more than 90 percent water. The next time you crack open a cold one, take a moment to think about that water’s origins. Prior to flowing into the brewery and mixing with hops, barley and yeast, it was naturally filtered through our forested watersheds. Healthy forest ecosystems gathered water from rain and fog and absorbed, purified, and slowly released it into rivers, lakes, and streams where it created and sustained life on its way to the tap.
Clean water is essential for great beer—and healthy forests clean water. At least half of the drinking water in the United States is stored and filtered through our forests, but many of these forests are in immediate need of restoration to reduce the risk of severe fire events that would threaten water quality. We’re working hard to make that happen to ensure healthy forests can continue to provide us with clean water—for beer and beyond. We have over 246 breweries in Oregon and all the best ones agree: clean water matters.
Our OktoberForest brewery partners know that healthy forests and clean water are vital to great beer. But you don't have to take our word for it.
We asked Roger Worthington, owner of Worthy Brewing; Logan Garner, Education Coordinator at Fort George Brewery; Andrew Schwartz, Commissioner of Flavor at Modern Times Beer; and Tyler West, Head Brewer at GoodLife Brewing Company, some questions about why forests and water are so important to their brews.
TNC Oregon: What do you love about the Pacific Northwest?
Worthy: What’s not to love? Where else can you ride under the forest canopy along a roaring river on a fern-lined single track? Or summon your animal spirits on a hike on an Elk trail along a cliff overlooking the Pacific Coast? Or drink an artisanal beer made with ingredients harvested within 100 miles? Or top off a robust kayak by soaking in a hot spring with your best friend? Or drink the world’s tastiest, snowmelt water from the tap in your kitchen? We live in the wellspring of life, love and beauty itself.
Fort George: I'm inclined to speak for myself here, rather than Fort George as a whole, but I know my sentiments are indicative of the culture and shared by a lot of people here, from staff to management to the owners of the brewery. The Pacific Northwest is a treasure trove of beauty; there are so many landscapes, climates and green, wild places packed into this corner of the world that I can't help but feel like I have access to much more opportunity and beauty than I deserve. I have a responsibility in my work and personal life to be a steward of these resources. I count the natural world in the PNW as a great fortune in my life.
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TNC Oregon: Where does the water in your beer come from?
GoodLife: We drink, brew, clean and live off the amazing Bridge Creek Watershed. Our huge snow packs that fill our aquifers and supply the wonderful Tumalo Creek from the Bridge Creek Watershed. It’s really cool to look up at the snowy mountains in the winter and realize that (snow) will soon be drinking water for us and brewing water, which is the foundation for our beer.
Worthy: For a majority of the year, our brewing water source is a spring-fed watershed high up in the Cascade range. During peak months in summer, the water source switches to an aquifer fed by rainfall and snowmelt filtered through lava rock. Both sources are fairly similar due to them essentially sharing the same source. The water is soft enough that there is not a lot that we as brewers need to do to brew amazing beer with it. It is a blank canvas that allows us to harden as needed for any particular style.
Fort George: Here in Astoria, we have amazing, delicious water from the Bear Creek watershed east of town. The hydrology and natural processes on those 3700 acres (all owned and well-managed by the city) naturally soften and sand-filter our water even before any prescribed drinking-water treatments. The watershed as a whole acts as a treatment facility because of its healthy and diverse ecosystem: from the soil to the plants that grow in it, to the water that flows over, through and under it.
TNC Oregon: How do forests play a role in the beer you brew?
Worthy: Worthy Beer is almost 95% water, so what goes into the brewing process is what you are consuming. There is no need for us to process our brewing water to make is taste fresh and clean, we simply remove chlorine and it’s basically fresh from the mountains. Since our water is sourced from a watershed in the forest, the health of the forest is paramount to providing a natural filter through which the water is released into the streams and resulting watershed. The trees absorb and store this water and without the presence of trees, rain and snowmelt are not adequately collected and erodes the surface as runoff rather than naturally accumulating and feeding the watershed.
Modern Times: As it comprises most of it, good water is part and parcel to good beer. The pH and mineral content have a huge impact on the finished product, as do any impurities in the water profile. As it stands, the water we currently get from Portland is pretty incredible; all we have to do is run it through a carbon filter and it’s essentially reverse osmosis (RO) quality. Healthy forests are the first and most important step in collecting and filtering the natural water supply. A thriving forest ecosystem takes a huge amount of pressure off of city infrastructure and its associated costs, which benefits both brewers and the people who pay for their beer.
GoodLife: Clean water means less treatment for bacteria. A healthy forest provides a natural filter for our air, allowing us to breathe fresh clean oxygen, to live a healthy life! I think the connection is simply we breathe oxygen, drink water and eat, all to survive what Mother Nature throws at us. To live near the forest, for me, just gives me a sense of relief knowing that solidarity with the forest is just a few miles out of town.
TNC Oregon: What else should we know about your environmental, sustainability or water conservation efforts/initiatives?
Fort George: We have established several ongoing and continued efforts in sustainability and conservation. A few of these include tracking and reducing our draft beer waste (and hence water usage/waste) getting rid of plastic bags and straws in our brewery and restaurants, upgrading our boiler and water heaters to more energy-efficient models, sending our spent grain to local farms as feed, sending kitchen scraps to be composted, recycling our cans, can toppers, bottles/glass, paper/cardboard and even our pallet wrap on the block. We reuse what we can in daily operations, have transitioned from plastic water cups to glass-only, and host beach cleanups seasonally as well. We even have an employee bike program that provides a free Kona bicycle for staff to ride to work instead of driving their car. Coming down the pike are a few larger projects, including putting an electric car charger on our property. We're always looking for ways to reduce our footprint and promote healthy employees and a healthy environment.
Modern Times: Our most recent effort in this direction has been moving our entire Portland brewery, restaurant, and tasting room to wind power through PGE’s Clean Wind initiative. We’re planning to do the same with our SoCal locations when it becomes available in the near future.
Oregon Brewery Partners
This OktoberForest, we've partnered up with some pretty awesome breweries in Oregon to share how healthy forests = clean water = great beer. Check out our partners below:
An Oregon beer staple, Deschutes Brewery has pubs in both Bend (their original spot) and Portland. Throughout October, Deschutes is working with TNC to highlight that special forest, water, beer link. Explore Deschutes Brewery
Fort George Brewery
Hailing from Astoria on the northern tip of the iconic Oregon Coast, Fort George Brewery crafts beers only available in the PNW. Plus, they're committed to reducing their brewery's carbon footprint. Explore Fort George
GoodLife Brewing Company
GoodLife is all about that Bend lifestyle: that kayaking, biking, hiking, cracking a cold one after a climb kind of lifestyle. A longtime OktoberForest partner, we're excited to work with them again. Explore GoodLife Brewing
Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB)
In the words of HUB, they're all about "using beer as a force for good." Environmental stewardship and giving back to the community are core to this OkoberForest partner's beer philosophy. Explore Hopworks
Modern Times Beer
Founded in San Diego, employee-owned Modern Times Beer is a recent Portland addition. They operate a brewery and serve beer and food at their taphouse in SE Portland. Explore Modern Times
Ninkasi Brewing Company
Based in Eugene, Ninkasi is a fully-independent brewery that's focused on their community. As an OktoberForest partner, they're excited to share the love for PNW beer and forests! Explore Ninkasi
If you ask Bend-based Worthy Brewing, their motto is "Earth first. Beer second." Worthy is driven by a mission to educate, prioritize sustainability, and make high-quality craft beer. Explore Worthy Brewing
Healthy Forests. Clean Water. Great Beer.
Impress your friends the next time you're at a brewery when you break out these facts about how forests and water affect beer!
If you like beer, you should love forests!
Beer is 90% water. And almost half of the world’s usable water comes from forests. Help protect beer’s main ingredient. Help us plant one billion trees!