Since 1990, The Nature Conservancy has been working with partners to preserve water quality and globally important habitat in the Clinch River and its key tributaries.
Clinch River Since 1990, The Nature Conservancy has been working with partners to preserve water quality and globally important habitat in the Clinch River and its key tributaries. © Margie Nea

Stories in Virginia

OktoberForest in Virginia

If you like beer, you should love forests.

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 celebrates fall with OktoberForest, a collaboration with brewers across the country to raise awareness about the important role that forests play in our water supply. 

Watch the video below to find out what happens when a forest and a river love each other very much.

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

We asked brewers and cideries in the commonwealth why healthy forests and clean water are important to their work and their community. Here's what they had to say.

Apocalypse Ale Works

Our passion comes from a pretty simple place: it is important for business to give back to the community. If you sit down to make a list of the things in our lives that touch every single person, if the environment is not the first thing on that list, well…what is? 

Beale's Beer

We care deeply about producing the highest-quality beer and making a positive impact in our community. Having clean water is essential to both of those goals, and without healthy forests, our water source is jeopardized.

Billsburg Brewery

A healthy forest is critical for filtering rain water and helping to reduce run off and erosion. 

Black Narrows Brewing Co.

Forests are a point of connection. Physically they connect our local ecosystems together.  They're the natural filters we depend on for our streams and rivers.  Emotionally they connect us to nature and to one another.

Blue Bee Cider

We have planted urban orchards at our Manchester and Scott's Addition facilities. Each spring we offer grafting, pruning and planting workshops to teach people how to grow their own fruit trees at home.

Blue Mountain Brewery

We use water-treatment technologies at our two brewery locations that include mechanisms like natural bacteria trickle filters, recirculating wetlands, membrane filtration, deep drain fields and drip-release fields.

Caiseal Beer & Spirits Co.

Clean water is critical in the making of beer. Starting from a neutral and clean slate allows the ingredients to shine. A tainted water supply can damage the natural sweetness, resinous or hop flavor.

Cape Charles Brewing Co.

We are surrounded by the pristine waters and beautiful, raw untouched nature of the Eastern Shore, and draw inspiration from the barrier islands.

Damascus Brewery

Trees are filters for our planet's water and we need them to control erosion, shade the waterways to keep them cool, and to drop their leaves into the water in the fall to provide nutrients for fish and macro invertebrates.

Elderbrew

Despite the myriad of ingredients that can go into a beer, and regardless of style, clean water is absolutely essential for good beer. The best type of beer to brew in a particular region is almost solely determined by the chemistry and quality of the water. 

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

Keeping forests and natural ecology clean is one of the only ways to ensure that bright, safe, and healthy water can be used to nourish our communities and to make outstanding beer. 

O'Connor Brewing Co.

Nature facilitates our passion for brewing beer. Not only are healthy forests vital in ensuring good, clean water, but they are also home to thousands of yeast strains.  This is important to us because ultimately, we don't brew the beer, yeast brews the beer. 

Port City Brewing Co.

We're constantly looking at ways to reduce our environmental impact.  We’ve implemented processes in the brewery to reduce our water usage well below the national average for breweries of our size.  

Reason Beer

There is a cycle of water in our environment, and it’s important to protect this resource at every step. For us, that means healthy forests, clean water, and good beer are inseparable.      

Rising Silo Brewery

We have a common love for water!  Brewer Greg Zielske Jr., used to drive out to Salt Pond Mountain for water and lakebed bottles to make home brew.  Now we have access to ground water from a wonderful well that provides cold, delicious and consistent water.

Sly Clyde Ciderworks

Hard cider requires lots of apples, and they need to be healthy and robustly flavored to make delicious ciders; that all starts with the water and the soil.

Smartmouth Brewing Company

We have chosen waterways charities as our philanthropic focus. We support many, many organizations but tend to focus on ones that help to protect our waterways.

South Street Brewery

The 30-year revolution of independent, non-commodity “craft” breweries has brought with it a very real awareness of participation in all things local. Local community, local charity and local environmental concerns. 

Sugar Hill Brewing Co.

Brewing begins with water.  The Clinch River, Virginia's "hidden river," is an excellent source of clean water that provides an outstanding start for all of our beers.

Trapezium Brewing Co.

We're located one block from the Appomattox River, so we think a lot about how to be good neighbors and stewards of the natural resources in our community. 

Vasen Brewing Company

We spend a lot of time making sure the quality of the water is top notch. If not for a healthy ecosystem the foundation and future of our brewery would not exist. 

Wild Wolf Brewing Company

“Every Day is Earth Day” at Wild Wolf and we believe strongly in initiatives that aim to protect our natural resources. Wild Wolf has received the Green Brewery of the Year Award from the Virginia Green Travel Alliance for the past three consecutive years.

Wolf Hills Brewing Co.

Clean water is the foundation of beer. Without great water beer suffers. We are very lucky to have a good supply of clean water in southwest Virginia.

Woodstock Brewhouse

The Shenandoah River borders National forest lands in many places. We realize that forests’ natural filtration provides us with high quality water from the source.  The healthier the forests, the better the water quality; good, clean water produces better beer, it's that simple. 

OktoberForest Celebrating the connection between healthy forests and clean water. © TNC

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

Apocalypse Ale Works - Forest

Beale's - Bedford

Billsburg Brewery - Williamsburg

Black Narrows Brewing Co. - Chincoteague

Blue Bee Cider - Richmond

Blue Mountain Brewery - Afton

Bristol Station Brews and Taproom - Bristol

Caiseal Beer and Spirits Co. - Hampton

Cape Charles Brewing Company - Cape Charles

Castle Hill Cider - Keswick

Champion Brewing Company - Charlottesville, Richmond

Damascus Brewery - Damascus

Elderbrew - Bristol

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery - Richmond, West Creek, Charlottesville

Heavy Seas Alehouse - Arlington

Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery - Goochland

O'Connor Brewing Company - Norfolk

Oozelfinch - Hampton

Port City Brewing - Alexandria

Reason Beer - Charlottesville

Rising Silo Farm Brewery - Blacksburg

Sly Clyde Ciderworks - Hampton

Smartmouth Brewing Company - Norfolk, Virginia Beach

South Street Brewery - Charlottesville

Starr Hill Brewery - Charlottesville, Roanoke

Sugar Hill Brewing Co. - St. Paul

Three Notch'd - Charlottesville

Trapezium Brewing - Petersburg

Vasen - Richmond

Wild Wolf Brewing Company - Charlottesville

Wolf Hills Brewing Co. - Abingdon

Woodstock Brewhouse - Woodstock

Where Do Beers Come From? Find out what happens when a forest and a river love each other very much.
Celebrate OktoberForest Love your beer, love your forest. Learn how forests help beer, and what you can do to help forests.

Brewers in Hampton Roads and on the Eastern Shore share how nature inspires their craft and the connections between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer.

In the heart of Williamsburg/Jamestown, VA.
Billsburg Brewery In the heart of Williamsburg/Jamestown, VA. © courtesy Billsburg Brewery

"Nature has been so much an inspiration, we decided to open our brewery on a marina located on the historic Powhatan Creek near the Jamestown Settlement."

  • Q&A with James City County's Billsburg Brewery

     

    How has nature inspired you as a brewery?  

    Nature has been so much an inspiration we decided to open our brewery on a marina overlooking the historic Powhatan Creek.

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer?

    Like any good product, you must start with the main ingredient. In the case of beer, water is that main ingredient.  If want great beer, you need clean water. 

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer?

    You need a healthy forest to filter the rain water and help reduce run off and erosion.

    What water source do you use?

    James City Service Authority (JCSA)

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives?

    We are currently working with the County to start a reduce/reuse & recycle program for not only our Brewery, but the entire marina. 

Inspired by nature.
Black Narrows Brewing Co. Inspired by nature. © courtesy Black Narrows Brewing Co.

"Nature doesn’t just inspire us, it drives us. We made a home on the Eastern Shore because of the natural beauty and bounty that abounds here. These ecosystems are near and dear to us and to our families."

  • Q&A with Jenna Chapman, co-founder of Chincoteague's Black Narrows Brewing Co.

     

    How has nature inspired you as a brewery?

    Nature doesn’t just inspire us here at Black Narrows Brewing Co., it drives us.

    We made a home here on the Eastern Shore because of the natural beauty and bounty that abounds here. Farms, forests, the ocean, the bay and marsh for miles. These ecosystems are near and dear to us and to our families. This place was at the heart of our dream, before the building and before the beer. In the city, you barely notice time change, the days spinning or the seasons turning.

    Here, we live by the old rhythms. The seasons move us and our family, the island and the brewery. And with the seasons comes the bounty of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. We walk the farms and lose ourselves inside the woods. We wade in the marsh and boat out to new waters. We adventure around these parts looking for ingredients and finding inspiration. Our beers and their stories reflect life, they reflect the land and waters and people all around us.

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer?

    It’s really simple. Water isn’t just the foundation of great beer, it’s the most important ingredient. Beer is comprised of roughly 90% water. Without clean water we can’t make clean beers.

    What important connection do you see between healthy forests, clean water and good beer?

    Healthy forests not only provide food and shelter for the animals and plants that live within them, but they’re indispensable sources of food, medicine and materials for us. More importantly, forests are a point of connection.

    Physically they connect our local ecosystems together. Forests are the natural filters we depend on for our streams and rivers. Life on the land and in our waters depends on healthy forests.

    Emotionally they connect us to nature and to one another. When you walk through the forest and listen to the sounds of bugs, birds and the other creatures crawling about, you find both your inner wild and your inner calm. When people spend time outside, lost amongst the trees, they tend to be better to and for one another.

    All of these connections between nature and people can be felt and seen inside the brewery. And when you taste a beer, made with care, a reflection of a time and place, your world is made better in that moment. Maybe that moment may lead us to be better stewards of this one beautiful life we’ve been given.

    What water source do you use?

    Our water comes from an aquifer on the mainland. We have a reverse osmosis filtration system that we use on our water before using it for our brews. What that basically gives us is a blank slate so we have greater control of what goes into every beer.

    What else should we know about your environmental and sustainability initiatives?

    We are developing strong relationships with local farm partners. Right now, all our spent grain goes to feed the heritage breed pigs on Perennial Roots Farm. We’re also working on sending a sample of our brewing process water to NASA to find out if we can store and haul that water to be used as cover water on the farm as well.

    We’re also developing important relationships with local government and businesses. We partnered with the Chincoteague Bay Field Station last year to bring about the Eastern Shore’s premier craft beer and science festival giving over $10,000 to local students so they might go an a life-changing field experience.

    In September, 2018 we gave over $23,000 to one global cause and 9 local causes, one of which was SPARK, a free community program helping connect families to nature. This month we’re highlighting the Nature Conservancy as our first local cause of the new fiscal year.

    Our hope is that by collaborating with these organizations and empowering our Black Narrows tribe, we can make a real impact on the community and in the world.

© Info

"Caiseal is Gaelic for "stone fortress" and our logo is a representation of the stone fortresses that were built during the Bronze Age in Northern Europe. These fortresses hark back to the historic Armory building we reside in now, which was renovated and saved certain demolishment. In that way - rebuilding from existing structures and honoring the structures built from stone - is a wonderful and unique way to honor nature."

  • Q&A with Amelia Emr, general manager for Hampton's Caiseal Beer & Spirits Co.

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer? 

    Clean water is critical in the making of beer. Starting from a neutral and clean slate allows the ingredients to shine. A tainted water supply can damage the natural sweetness, resinous or hop flavor.

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer? 

    As with any natural environment, there is a cycle of life and one cannot live without the other. For example, our grain goes back to local farmers to feed their livestock - the creation of something doesn't necessarily mean the deterioration of the other - just the transformation to a different form of energy. 

    What water source do you use? 

    Our water comes from the (Hampton) city supply. We are very lucky to have such neutral water that makes for great beer!

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives? 

    As a company we have taken an historic building and made it new again and made it a communal space for all those in the region. We believe in the restoration and maintenance of the history within this town. 

An Eastern Shore craft beer destination.
Cape Charles Brewing Co. An Eastern Shore craft beer destination. © courtesy Cape Charles Brewing Co.

"We are surrounded by the pristine waters and beautiful, raw untouched nature of the Eastern Shore - one of the last places on the east coast that is on the ocean and not overdeveloped.  We are so inspired by the beautiful barrier islands (many owned and protected by The Nature Conservacy) that we have named several of our flagship beers after them."

  • Q&A with Chris Marshall, co-founder Cape Charles Brewing Co.

     

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer?

    Beer starts and ends with water.  It takes approximately 4 gallons of water to brew 1 gallon of beer.  Water is the building block for beer so having clean water is an obvious necessity.  Bad water is going to make bad beer and good water doesn’t guarantee you will have good beer but bad water will. 

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer? 

    They are all inter-related and tied to one another.  Healthy forests require clean water.  Clean water requires healthy forests to help filter impurities. 

    What water source do you use?

    Water from the town of Cape Charles, VA.

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives? 

    We are a new company, but we are committed to preserving and protecting our environment.  We work with other farmers and all of our spent grain from the brewing process is used for feed for cows, pigs or sheep.  We try to conserve energy by using cold water to cool our wort.  The resulting heated water we recycle in a hot water tank to expend less energy with the next boil and to use for sanitizing.  As we grow as a company we are committed to leaving the least footprint possible. 

Hops are a main ingredient in beer.
O'Connor Brewing Co. Hops are a main ingredient in beer. © courtesy O'Connor Brewing Co.

"Beer is a 100% agricultural product, and therefore without nature beer would not exist. Nature provides us with a cornucopia of scents and flavors, making the possibilities of our creations limitless."

  • Q&A with Norfolk's O’Connor Brewing Co.

     

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer?

    We believe that clean water is such a high priority because beer should never be brewed with water that we wouldn't drink ourselves.

    Water makes up between 90-94% of a finished beer and provides the canvas for all of the flavors which we choose for each brew. The quality of the water can significantly impact the flavor of a finished product.

    For example, high amounts of iron can cause metallic off-flavors, or the presence of bacteria and microorganisms naturally found in water can turn beer sour, acidic or give it a foul odor. 

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer?

    We hold the upmost respect for our environment because nature facilitates our passion for brewing beer. Not only are healthy forests vital in ensuring good, clean water, but they are also home to thousands of yeast strains. This is important to us because ultimately, we don't brew the beer, yeast brews the beer. 

    What water source do you use?

    Norfolk pulls off of the North Atlantic coastal plains aquifer system, which we are lucky to have very clean, natural water and whole-heartedly believe it is worth protecting.

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives?

    Seasonally (4 times a year) we release a new saison as a part of our Endless Saison Series. This series is inspired by surf spots around the globe, for which the flavor profile of each saison is derived from the tastes and ingredients cultivated  in the locale which inspires the beer.

    A portion of the proceeds from this series benefits the Surfrider Foundation, a powerful activist network that works towards the protection and enjoyment of oceans and beaches. 

    Last year, we collaborated with volunteers from Surfrider Foundation and Norfolk Botanical Garden to build an ocean-friendly garden near our outdoor bar here at our brewery. 

    Recently, we were the only VA brewery which participated in a trial run for E6PR, a new fish-friendly Eco 6 Pack Ring made from compostable organic materials. 

    We also properly recycle here at the brewery and encourage our customers to do so as well.

Owners Tim and Doug Smith
Sly Clyde Ciderworks Owners Tim and Doug Smith © courtesy Sly Clyde Ciderworks

"My brother and I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay. From the time that we started boating and fishing we knew that respect for nature, and its delicate ecosystems, is vital for our survival as a species. Even today it reminds me how interconnected we are with the Earth and how important it is that we act as good stewards of its resources."

  • Q&A with Tim and Doug Smith, owners of Hampton's Sly Clyde Ciderworks

     

    How has nature inspired you as a cidery? 

    My brother and I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay. Whether we were waking up to the sunrise glistening off the water, or running the rip-rap of the beach, we learned about the magnitude of nature very early.

    Kepone warning signs faced the beach across from our house and stories about fragile coastal Virginia communities struggling in the absence of the Bay’s oyster and crabbing economies caught our attention almost daily. We began to understand how important it is that we protect the Earth’s resources on land and in the sea.

    From the time that we started boating and fishing we knew that respect for nature, and its delicate ecosystems, is vital for our survival as a species. Even today it reminds me how interconnected we are with the Earth and how important it is that we act as good stewards of its resources.  

    When we started Sly Clyde Ciderworks we made a commitment to use locally produced and adaptively reused materials whenever possible in our construction process. We are still exploring some modern approaches to global citizenship like carbon offsets, alternative energy, and even installing an EV Charging station for cars like my Nissan Leaf!

    We want to use a science-based approach at our cidery that is efficient and has as low an environmental impact as possible. There are always trade-offs in business but we know that the human race has caused the Earth to hit a tipping point. We must all work to be stronger advocates for ensuring next generations will have an Earth to responsibly inhabit.

    The sun still shines and glistens on the Bay, reminding us each day we can do just a little more than the day before. It’s an ardent reminder and a constant source of inspiration.

    Why is clean water important for making cider?

    We don’t use water in the cider-making process like a brewery would, but unspoiled water is still vital in the cider-making process.

    We need our water systems to be healthy to grow the tasty Virginia apples we are using. We need aqueducts and groundwater to be protected because that is where the roots of the apple trees reach, particularly in the hot Virginia summers. The sources of water feeding our trees must be free from contaminants and create the best environment for apple cultivation. Hard cider requires lots of apples, and they need to be healthy and robustly flavored to make our delicious Sly Clyde ciders; that all starts with the water and the soil.

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good cider?

    As a coastal Virginia cidery, just blocks from the Chesapeake Bay, we rely on healthy forests and clean water to feed the apple trees that make Sly Clyde cider possible. I love to see the viewshed signs on Virginia’s highways and bi-ways. They remind us of the Earth’s delicate ecosystem. If we want water that is plentiful, clean, and results in wonderful Virginia cider we have to remember the source of that water may be more than 100 miles away!

    There are lots of interactions that the forests and fields have with one another, from supporting pollinating bees to healthy orchards. These are the ingredients that help us to make a Virginia-based product that people are really loving. We only use 100% Virginia apples, craftily crushed at the orchard so we are very interested in responsible agricultural production.

    It’s not always easy to raise a glass of Sly Clyde cider in the Hampton Roads and contemplate how clean streams and groundwater in Danville, Virginia matter, but they do! All of these things, ground and water, really do matter when you are making an agricultural product.

    What water source do you use?

    We use the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean – they inspire our cider names and branding.

    We benefit from groundwater in the Blue Ridge foothills and Shenandoah Valley to feed the apples that make our cider delicious.

    We only use municipal water sources when required for cleaning.

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives?

    Sly Clyde Ciderworks is Virginia’s only beach-based cidery, operating just blocks from some very important breeding grounds for oysters, blue crabs, and fish. But the Bay is still in distress, despite a generation of remediation efforts. Some of this is climate change and some is the related dumping of chemicals and trash into our waterways.

    Land-based waste, particularly plastics, are making their way into the Bay and becoming part of the ocean-waste disaster at alarming rates. This concerns us and is something that we have been actively discussing with the environmental community, particularly the impact of plastics on biodiversity, sea life populations, and threatened species.

    We want to make corporate decisions that have a light impact on the Earth, but ocean plastics is one area that we will be focusing our advocacy efforts on over the next few years.

Celebrating healthy waterways in Hampton Roads.
Smartmouth Brewing Co. Celebrating healthy waterways in Hampton Roads. © courtesy Smartmouth Brewing Co.

"We have chosen waterways charities as our philanthropic focus. We support many, many organizations but tend to focus on ones that help to protect our waterways."

  • - Q&A with Norfolk's Smartmouth Brewing Company

     

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer?

    Beer uses several natural ingredients - water, hops, and malt - which can’t be used if they are contaminated.

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives?

    We have many! We recycle, including giving all of our spent grain to a farmer to feed his animals.  We minimize the use of disposable food service products and encourage the food trucks that serve at Smartmouth to be mindful of their packaging.  We're conscious of energy conservation - we participate with Arcadia Energy so that our facility is essentially using wind energy. We also worked with the city to install a rain garden and improve drainage.

Brewers in central and northern Virginia share how nature inspires their craft and the connections between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer.

Forest, Virginia's first brewery since Thomas Jefferson brewed in the 1800’s at Poplar Forest.
Apocalypse Ale Works Forest, Virginia's first brewery since Thomas Jefferson brewed in the 1800’s at Poplar Forest. © courtesy Apocalypse Ale Works

"Our beers incorporate our natural surroundings and local agriculture, making our beer uniquely tied to a time, place and people."

  • Q&A with Austin John, Director of Production, Sales and Fun, Forest's Apocalypse Ale Works

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer? 

    Beer, like our bodies, is mostly water. Water is the most important ingredient in beer.  East Coast beers tend to be a little earthier, West Coast beers are resionous, and Midwestern beers are juicier- the major difference being water profile. 

    Water quality can impact beer in a few different ways. Yeast converts sugar from malted grain into alcohol, fermenting the beer. Changes in the water’s chemistry impact the activity of the yeast, impacting the taste.

    Next, the acidity of the water can also affect the final flavor. A beer brewed with alkaline-rich water can make the beer taste minerally or metallic, while acidic water causes beer to lose its complexity. The chlorine added from municipal water treatment systems to eliminate harmful bacteria also impacts the flavor and aroma of the beer

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer? 

    Everyone here is concerned about environmental causes. It’s a craft brewery! Part of the draw of this area are the Blue Ridge Mountains, James and Muarry Rivers, Smith Mountain Lake, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Chesapeake Bay. All of these are a major part of people’s lives from the cradle to the grave.

    With even an elementary understanding  of the water cycle we can understand how important this one variable is to all of us.

    Our passion comes from a pretty simple place: It is important for business to give back to the community. If you sit down to make a list of the things in our lives that touch every single person, if the environment is not the first thing on that list, well…what is? 

    What water source do you use? 

    Pedlar and James Rivers.

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives?

    Brewery wastewater is extremely high in organic matter from leftover yeast, malt and hops. This can put a strain on municipal sewage treatment plants and cause extreme ecosystem damage if discharged directly into surface waters.

    One of our main projects here at Apocalypse Ale Works is addressing this problem and looking for ways to find solutions for this waste in a renewable way - such as giving some of it to farmers for cattle feed.

    In addition to the environmental concerns resulting from the raw materials that come in and out, there is the issue of the energy needed to heat, cool and move them around the brewery.

    Maximizing thermal and electric efficiency is a constant battle at breweries. Currently, I’m researching renewable energy installations in order to offset electricity costs and environmental impact.

    Lastly is our attempt to conserve water. Breweries use a TON of water. Both in the process of brewing and cleaning - so the ability to reuse water in a cold liquor tank saves the environment thousands of gallons of water annually. 

Tap room.
Beale's Beer Tap room. © courtesy Beale's Beer

"Our brewery is nestled in the foothills of the Peaks of Otter. It's a beautiful area of Virginia, and on our off days, you'll find many of our employees enjoying the beauty of nature– hiking, biking, and camping."

  • Q&A with Emily Sanfratella, chief operating officer of Bedford's Beale's Beer

     

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer? 

    95% of beer comes from water. Without clean water, it's impossible for us to make good beer.

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer? 

    We care deeply about producing the highest-quality beer and making a positive impact in our community. Having clean water is essential to both of those goals, and without healthy forests, our water source is jeopardized.

    What water source do you use? 

    Our water comes from the Bedford Regional Water Authority. We worked very closely with them to ensure we minimize our waste and use our water as efficiently as possible.

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives? 

    We've teamed up with businesses in our community to use local, sustainably grown and raised products. Ronnie Gross, whose orchard is just 10 minutes down the road from us, has been a great partner who has provided apple cider for our Spiced Apple Ale and peaches for our Peach Wheat beer. 

Evening event in the courtyard.
Blue Bee Cider Evening event in the courtyard. © courtesy Blue Bee Cider

"One of Virginia’s native bees, the Blue Orchard Bee (osmia lignaria), provided the inspiration for our cidery’s name. These hardworking bees are solitary and wild, emerging early in the spring just in time to pollinate apple blossoms."

  • Q&A with Manuel Garcia, cidermaker for Richmond's Blue Bee Cider

     

    How is a ciderey different than a brewery? How is it similar?

    The greatest difference is in the cidermaking process. Cider is made and regulated as a wine.

    We ferment raw apple juice, called "must" instead of "wort", at low temperatures. We do not apply heat (brew) at any point in the process and we do not add water to the must or the finished cider (though some cideries do).

    We tap into the spirit of experimentation and are always trying to find new ways to define cider through innovative ways. We have also done many collaborations with breweries, distilleries, and meaderies within our area.

    We're interested in the links between forests, water and your cider products. Do you know how much water Blue Bee uses on an annual or monthly basis? Where does your water come from?

    Blue Bee Cider uses the municipal water supply of the City of Richmond for cleaning purposes and the rehydration of yeast.

    Blue Bee is located in a growing area of Richmond, Scott's Addition, but you used to overlook the James River. Why did you move? Do you still have a connection to the James River?

    Though the historic Manchester neighborhood will always be near and dear to our hearts, we outgrew that facility. We relocated to Scott's Addition in October 2016.

    Our current neighborhood is further inland and we have shifted our stewardship focus to greenspaces and parks in and near our immediate neighborhood, which do not include the James River.

    What else should we know about Blue Bee's environmental or sustainability initiatives?

    In no particular order:

    1. We purchased our current facility from the City Department of Parks and Recreation. The proceeds from the purchase of the property have been earmarked for greenspace improvements and development in our neighborhood, Scott's Addition. A greenspace working group to steward those funds is in development and our owner, Courtney Mailey, will participate in that group.
    2. We support the Enrichmond Foundation and its Tree Lab project. This started with a large donation by Blue Bee Cider of apples trees in 2013 to a trial orchard in Chimborazo Park and continues with Blue Bee's financial support of the Tree Lab and fundraising through the Richmond Cider Celebration each fall.
    3. Blue Bee Cider currently recycles about 80% of its solid waste, which is primarily cardboard and glass.
    4. Blue Bee Cider has planted urban orchards at our Manchester and Scott's Addition facilities. Each spring we offer grafting, pruning and planting workshops to teach people how to grow their own fruit trees at home.

    What else would you like people to know about Blue Bee?

    Our aim is to make cider that is quintessential to Virginia and the United States. We use 100% Virginia cider apples that are grown by passionate farmers. The apples we use represent their labor and all the orchard hands involved in the care of the fruit.

    Each year the soil produces a unique variety of flavor and complexity in apples like Winesap, York, Pippin, Harrison, Ashmead's Kernel, Gold Rush, and many more. We want to explore and challenge the definition of cider while remaining true to our region, the fruit it produces, and the community we work in.

    The goal is to have our ciders represent Virginia's terrain and our place in the world. We want our ciders to reflect the orchards, the hands that grow the fruit, our cidery in Scott's Addition, the hands that turn the juice into cider, the dedicated voices that share our story, and the customers that enjoy it again and again.

    Our focus is to work with patience, respect, curiosity, and an unrelenting passion for what we do.

Owners Taylor Smack, Mandi Smack, and Matt Nucci.
Blue Mountain Brewery Owners Taylor Smack, Mandi Smack, and Matt Nucci. © Stacey Evans

"With few exceptions, beer brewing has been associated with industrialization in an urban setting for most of the last 200+ years. The goal of Blue Mountain is to bring people out of the cities and give them a relaxing rural setting to reconnect with the land that the simple ingredients of beer come from."

  • Q&A with Taylor Smack, founder of Charlottesville's Blue Mountain Brewery

     

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water and good beer?

    The 30-year revolution of independent, non-commodity “craft” breweries has brought with it a very real awareness of participation in all things local. Local community, local charity and local environmental concerns. Healthy forests are part of clean water, and clean water is pretty darn important to good beer.

    But what I’m really getting at is that independent breweries are generally smaller and very embedded in their communities. The beer we make is created and consumed locally, and the support of the people around us is all we have. So it becomes a “don’t foul your own nest” kind of mentality with the way you operate your brewery. Small footprint, don’t pollute, think about what you use.

    How are your breweries working to be sustainable or environmentally friendly?   

    One big thing would be what almost all breweries do, which is to consider the spent grain and hops from our brewing process as a usable co-product and not as simply a waste stream.

    All three breweries give (for free) our wet, spent grain to farmers for cattle feed (and in one case, sheep). It seems like a small thing, but at our production brewery, this is 40-50,000 pounds of wet spent grain every week.

    We also have a collective million dollars in water-treatment technology at the two brewery locations that include mechanisms like natural bacteria trickle filters, recirculating wetlands, membrane filtration, deep drain fields and drip-release fields.

    Both breweries fall under the newer Chesapeake Bay watershed requirements for very low nitrogen levels, and that stuff is not easy to do. But of course, it’s the right thing to do.

    Some of the small things are my favorite things we do: growing our own hops is part of the agricultural education of our brewery. Our hops each year are carefully, organically tended by Stan Driver, our hops horticulturalist, and they provide some real terroir to our beers.

    One last super-small thing: Mandi, my kids and I grow onions, lettuce, peppers, beans, leeks, and the most amazing tomatoes in our little garden between the hop field and our house. They end up on our menu very often! It’s a little thing, but it feels cool.

Co-founders Patrick Murtaugh and Eric McKay.
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery Co-founders Patrick Murtaugh and Eric McKay. © courtesy Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

"We are continuously seeking ways to be inspired by nature.  At our taproom in Goochland County, the beautiful and diverse ecology of Tuckahoe Creek has inspired us to incorporate reforestation into the next phases of our development. The trees, tributaries, and natural inhabitants allow for a breathtaking view from the brewery, a glimpse into the inspiration that we draw from daily."

  • Q&A with Margo Fairchild, events manager for Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

     

    How has nature inspired you as a brewery? – especially as you’ve been expanding?

    Hardywood has always had a fond commitment to nature. The concept of Hardywood Brewery was born on a farm in Australia by two lifelong friends with a shared love of the outdoors.

    Our Richmond location uses felled trees as the live edges to our bar tops and all of our tap handles have been crafted locally from reclaimed wood. We are continuously seeking ways to be inspired by nature.

    At our West Creek location in Goochland County, we set up shop along the banks of the Tuckahoe Creek. The property has achieved Certified Wildlife Habitat classification by the National Wildlife Federation, and Hardywood is pursuing Envision Gold rating for the project.

    The beautiful and diverse ecology has inspired us to incorporate reforestation into the next phases of our development. West Creek's trees, tributaries, and natural inhabitants allow for a breathtaking view from the brewery, a glimpse into the inspiration that we draw from daily.

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer?

    As a beer’s base and the main in ingredient in a batch of the good stuff, great beer relies heavily on great water. Keeping forests and natural ecology clean is one of the only ways to ensure that bright, safe, and healthy water can be used to nourish our communities and to make outstanding, award-winning beer.

    For one of Hardywood’s beers, The Great Return, Hardywood provides $5 per barrel to the James River Association to promote a cleaner river system. The beer is named in honor of the return of the Atlantic sturgeon to the James after the species was thought to be extinct from the river.

    How is Hardywood working to be sustainable and environmentally friendly?

    Our mission statement at Hardywood is 'Brew with Purpose.' With everything we do, we have commitments to the environment and community at the forefront of our agenda.

    We're proud to say that we're one of the leading breweries in the market for sustainability as we work with the Dominion Energy Green Power Program to harness 100% of our electricity from renewable resources such as wind, biomass and solar.

    We also have a strong focus on sourcing from local farms and growers to use quality, thoughtfully grown, and environmentally sourced produce and grain. With our expansion to West Creek, we hope to eventually be able to grow and harvest produce and hops from our own gardens, limiting the environmental impact that transporting these products could pose.

    Here at Hardywood, we're literally propelled by nature and that's how the best beer is made!

Brewing in the historic port city of Alexandria, VA.
Port City Brewing Co. Brewing in the historic port city of Alexandria, VA. © courtesy Port City Brewing Co.

"At its heart, beer is an agricultural product, so we’re very appreciative of and dependent on nature.  We rely on farmers to produce a steady, high-quality supply of barley and hops for our industry; we rely on our lab to grow healthy yeasts to ferment our beer; and we rely on our watershed for a safe, stable water supply."

  • Q&A with Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Co.

     

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer?

    Beer is mostly water, so a reliable source of fresh, clean water is a prerequisite for running a brewery. 

    What water source do you use?

    We use our municipal water here in Alexandria, Virginia.

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives?

    We here at Port City are constantly looking at ways to reduce our environmental impact.  We’ve implemented processes in the brewery to reduce our water usage well below the national average for breweries of our size. 

    Whenever possible, we buy local; for instance, we use 100% Virginia-grown raw wheat in our Optimal Wit, with over 100 tons used in 2017 alone.  We also source our packaging from local partners. 

    All of the spent grain that results from the brewing process is given to a local farmer for use as high-quality animal feed.  And we’re currently in the process of upgrading our lighting to LEDs.  We take sustainability seriously.

     

co-founder Jeff Raileanu
Reason Beer co-founder Jeff Raileanu © courtesy Reason Beer

"There’s a wondrous sense of balance in nature. Whether you’re exploring the Appalachian Trail, or just watching the leaves change color, you can’t help but find harmony all around you. We strive to make beers that reflect that beautiful balance."

  • Q&A with J. Patrick Adair, co-founder Charlottesville's Reason Beer

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer? 

    Clean water is the foundation of great beer. Beer is 95% water, and any pollutants or off-flavors in water will definitely show up in a finished beer. A reliable source of pure, clear water makes our brewery possible. 

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer? 

    There is a cycle of water in our environment, and it’s important to protect this resource at every step. For us, that means healthy forests, clean water, and good beer are inseparable.  

    What water source do you use? 

    We are grateful to have a clean, consistent source of municipal water.

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives? 

    Reason Beer recycles our spent grain and as much of our other waste as possible. We are exploring new initiatives to reuse our bottles as well as to decrease our power consumption.

    We strongly believe that protecting the environment and promoting sustainability isn’t just a great idea, it’s great for business.

Well inspired, solar fired.
Rising Silo Brewery Well inspired, solar fired. © courtesy Rising Silo Brewery

"We are located on a beautiful farm that provides endless inspiration, from brewing with farmed and foraged produce to maintaining our hop yard for fresh hop and wet hop beers. We believe in fresh food, true brews, and good people."

  • Q&A with Greg Zielske Jr., brewer for Blacksburg's Rising Silo Brewery

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer?

    Water is the number one ingredient and makes up the majority of beer.  It dictates fermentation and flavor characteristics.

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer?

    One should certainly not have to try and exists without the other!

    What water source do you use?

    We use an on site well that provides cold, delicious and consistent water.

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives?

    We exclusively use organic malts, grow our own hops, and either compost all of our solid wastes or feed it to hogs on site.  

    Our brewery also utilizes green energy through the power of the sun for beer production!   The Barn at Glade Road has a 6K array of solar panels, as well as a solar hot water system.  These systems allow us to brew more efficiently with a lighter conscience and cost of energy.  

Co-owners Mandi and Taylor Smack.
South Street Brewery Co-owners Mandi and Taylor Smack. © courtesy South Street Brewery

"The 30-year revolution of independent, non-commodity “craft” breweries has brought with it a very real awareness of participation in all things local. Local community, local charity and local environmental concerns. Healthy forests are part of clean water, and clean water is pretty darn important to good beer."

  • Q&A with Taylor Smack, owner of Charlottesville's South Street Brewery

     

    How has nature inspired you as a brewer?

    With few exceptions, beer brewing has been associated with industrialization in an urban setting for most of the last 200+ years. But of course, brewing is agricultural at its root, just like wine making. This is reflected in one of our slogans: “The beauty of Virginia, the bounty of nature, the art of brewing.”

    How are your breweries working to be sustainable or environmentally friendly?   

    Well, we do some big things and some little things. One big thing would be what almost all breweries do, which is to consider the spent grain and hops from our brewing process as a usable co-product and not as simply a waste stream.

    All three of our breweries give (for free) our wet, spent grain to farmers for cattle feed (and in one case sheep in addition to cattle). It seems like a small thing, but at our production brewery, this is 40-50,000 pounds of wet spent grain every week. 

Celebrating community in Petersburg.
Trapezium Brewing Co. Celebrating community in Petersburg. © Kate Thompson

"We're located one block from the Appomattox River, so we think a lot about how to be good neighbors and stewards of the natural resources in our community. We partnered with a local organization, Friends of the Lower Appomattox River (FOLAR) to raise funds for river clean-up and raise community awareness of the environmental issues we face."

  • Q&A with Emily Sanfratella, chief operating officer of Petersburg's Trapezium Brewing Co.

     

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer? 

    We're serious about our beer quality, and having clean water is the foundation for everything we do. We want to put out a great product, and without clean water, everything else is irrelevant.

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer? 

    Making good beer is impossible without clean water. We need a healthy ecosystem to produce the highest-quality product, so for us, having healthy forests and clean water are essentials.

    What water source do you use? 

    Our water comes from the City of Petersburg, which draws from the Appomattox River. We filter and test the water quality in our brewhouse lab.

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives? 

    We partner with local farmers to provide our spent grain for feed, and source local ingredients for our beers as often as possible. We've partnered with Agriberry to locally source berries for our Strawberry Blonde Ale, and we've brewed our Maple Pecan Wheat from pecans provided by Richard Bland College. This past year, we began ordering herbs and vegetables for our taproom kitchen from a Petersburg farm. We're always looking to collaborate with local folks who are also focused on sustainability. 

Tony Giordano, co-founder and brewmaster, at work at Vasen Brewing.
Vasen Brewing Company Tony Giordano, co-founder and brewmaster, at work at Vasen Brewing. © Shelby Lum / Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Nature was the main contributing factor to our taproom design and that is made apparent by our boulder that separates the taproom space and the abundant amount of reclaimed wood used in the process. We took a minimalist approach to the design and made sure to consider environmental factors when moving forward with materials."

  • Q&A with Clay Carlson, environmental program director for Richmond's Vasen Brewing Company

     

    What’s the origin and meaning behind the name “Väsen?”

    Väsen is a Scandinavian term that means “inner essence” or can translate to “animal spirit”. Our heritage is Swedish-Norwegian so we use that as a means of branding.

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer?

    We spend a lot of time making sure the quality of the water is top notch. The outdoors has provided us a release from work stress and the inspiration to create new styles of beer and new ways to brew. If not for a healthy ecosystem the foundation and future of our brewery would not exist. Plenty of work to be done however.

    How, specifically, is Väsen working to be sustainable and environmentally friendly?

    We are working toward being a zero waste designation brewery by recycling our spent grain to local farmers, focusing on water efficiencies (flow meters for example) and eventually the recapturing of CO2 from our fermentation process. Water is the main waste product and we are working on our water to beer ratios (still collecting data) and using wastewater as a means for the city to extract nitrogen from the wastewater treatment center (in the works).

    Tell us more about the Environmental Program – what are your goals for this program?

    The purpose of the program is to act as an incubator for our own technological advancements and then apply them to other breweries in our industry. Brewhouse efficiencies and supply chain management applications are on the horizon.

Beer crafted in the Shenandoah Valley.
Woodstock Brewhouse Beer crafted in the Shenandoah Valley. © courtesy Woodstock Brewhouse

“The Shenandoah River borders National forest lands in many places. We realize that forests’ natural filtration provides us with high quality water from the source.  The healthier the forests, the better the water quality; good, clean water produces better beer, it's that simple.”  

  • Interview with Matthew Klus, operations manager for Woodstock Brewhouse

    Woodstock Brewhouse is located in the Shenandoah Valley, less than a mile from the Shenandoah River.  They use the municipal water supply of the Town of Woodstock, which draws its drinking water from the river. 

    “We filter and test our water prior to every brew to ensure it is at its purest state,” says Operations Manager Matthew Klus. “The Shenandoah River borders National forest lands in many places. We realize that forests’ natural filtration provides us with high quality water from the source.  The healthier the forests, the better the water quality; good, clean water produces better beer, it's that simple.” 

    Klus says they strive to be an environmentally friendly and sustainable brewery by capturing any water through the cooling cycle of the brew and re-using that water for cleaning after the brewing process.  They also reuse spent grains to local farmers for cattle feed. Additionally, they partner with a local chestnut conservationist to brew a dark, hearty chestnut ale every fall as the chestnuts begin to produce their nuts.

    “Good, clean water is essential to crafting good beer,” says Klus.  “The Woodstock Brewhouse is excited to partner with fellow breweries across the country to celebrate The Nature Conservancy's Oktoberforest.” 

Brewers in southwest Virginia share how nature inspires their craft and the connections between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer.

Founder Adam Woodson
Damascus Brewery Founder Adam Woodson © courtesy Damascus Brewery

"We are the closest brewery to the Appalachian Trail and two of my brewers have hiked the entire AT! We love the outdoors and I have been on several environmentalist clubs and committees while in school and received an award from Keep VA Green for our green practices at the brewery."

  • Q&A with Adam Woodson, founder Damascus Brewery

     

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer?

    Water is 95% of what beer is, and the water makes all the difference in the world to the mouthfeel, head retention, and overall flavor of the beer. We have great water here, but still need to do water chemistry to mimic beer style from around the world.

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer?

    Trees are filters for our planet's water and we need them to control erosion, shade the waterways to keep them cool, and to drop their leaves into the water in the fall to provide nutrients for fish and macroinvertebrates.

    What water source do you use?

    Most of our water comes from Taylor's Valley, TN. This mountain top water has zero effluents from industry and is one of the cleanest water sources in the state.

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives?

    I have several water saving and energy saving devices and procedures in my operation that allow us to both save the environment while we save on our bills. One of our goals here is to go solar within the next few years!

Bristol, TN's first small batch brewery.
Elderbrew Bristol, TN's first small batch brewery. © courtesy Elderbrew

"Beyond providing us with an endless array of ingredients to brew with, nature provides us an escape, a quiet place to think and to create new ideas for future brews."

  • Q&A with Chris Bryant, founder of Bristol's Elderbrew

     

    How has nature inspired you as a brewery?

    Nature provides us with all four of the main ingredients in beer: grain, hops, yeast, and water, so it almost goes without saying that beer and nature go hand-in-hand. But especially in recent years, beer has evolved beyond its main ingredients.

    We love to explore alternative ingredients, such as squash, wheat, or corn in the fermentable stage, and wormwood and spruce tips as alternatives to bittering with hops.

    We're also very excited to try a wild fermentation, where instead of pitching our own yeast, we expose the beer to wild yeast and let nature take its course! Some of our favorite styles of beer are fermented this way. 

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer?

    Clean water is absolutely essential for good beer. The best type of beer to brew in a particular region is almost solely determined by the chemistry and quality of the water. This is precisely why stouts and porters worked best in Ireland and England, whereas pilsners and other lighter styles were best in specific regions of Germany.

    The recently-revived historical style gose owes its peculiar saltiness to the high sodium content of the water where it was initially brewed in Goslar, Germany. Despite the myriad of ingredients that can go into a beer, and regardless of style, beer is predominantly water. So without good, clean water, there is no good beer.

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer?

    It seems reasonable that a healthy forest could act very much like a filter for the water which passes through it. Inevitably, everything on our planet is connected, so if a forest suffers, the surrounding water will suffer with it, and vice versa. Very simply, we can't make good beer with bad water!

    What water source do you use?

    We use Bristol, TN water, which is sourced from the South Holston River.

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives?

    We have plans in place to ensure maximum utilization of all the water we use. Lots of water is used to cool the beer rapidly after boiling. This water can be collected and reused for cleaning (and there is a lot of cleaning to do).

    Our spent grains can also be reused as supplemental feed for cattle or as compost. We want to ensure that we have as small an impact on our environment as possible, and get as much use out of our natural resources as we possibly can!

Celebrating the Clinch River, Virginia's "hidden river."
Sugar Hill Brewing Co. Celebrating the Clinch River, Virginia's "hidden river." © courtesy Sugar Hill Brewing

“We have an excellent source of clean water that provides an outstanding start for all of our beers.”

  • Interview with Greg and Jennifer Bailey, owners of St. Paul's Sugar Hill Brewing Co.

     

    Sugar Hill Brewing Co. is a family affair for owners Greg and Jennifer Bailey, who, along with son Alex, opened their doors in 2016. Jennifer says that people are drawn to the town of Saint Paul, Virginia, because of the many opportunities for outdoor recreation, especially along the Clinch River, Virginia’s “hidden river.” 

    Greg and Jennifer enjoy daily walks with their five dogs along the Clinch and through the fields and forest on Sugar Hill. It was this trail system overlooking St. Paul that was the inspiration for the brewery's name.

    In addition to the more than 11 miles of walking and biking trails, the river provides a beautiful setting for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.  Jennifer hopes all this outdoor activity works up a good appetite for locals and tourists, alike!

    Sugar Hill takes its water from the Clinch, one of the last free-flowing tributaries of the Tennessee River system. “Brewing begins with water,” says Jennifer. “We have an excellent source of clean water that provides an outstanding start for all of our beers.”

Owners Rich Buddington, Cam Bell and Chris Burcher (l-r)
Wolf Hills Brewing Owners Rich Buddington, Cam Bell and Chris Burcher (l-r) © Courtesy Wolf Hills Brewing

"Beer is nature. Some speculate the reason human cultures became less nomadic and more stationary was so they could grow ingredients to make beer. Brewing takes advantages of two natural miracles: enzymatic conversion of starch to sugar (which allows seeds to grow into plants) and fermentation by yeast. Providing the environment for these natural processes to make beer is extremely rewarding."

  • Q&A with Rich Buddington, Cam Bell and Chris Burcher, owners Wolf Hills Brewing Co.

     

    Why is clean water important for brewing beer?

    Clean water is the foundation of clean beer. Without great water beer suffers. We are very lucky to have a good supply of clean water in southwest Virginia.

     

    What important connections do you see between healthy forests, clean water, and good beer?

    Forests provide and sustain the natural purifying processes that allow water to be filtered mechanically and biologically by soils and pick up the local constituents that give it a unique chemical signature. The foundation of our brewery is a healthy supply of clean water.

     

    What water source do you use?

    We get our water from the middle fork of the Holston River and a nearby aquifer in Taylor's Valley.  Our water supply is the same as everyone who lives here. We do not adulterate our water choosing to brew with what we have, which is excellent.

     

    What else should we know about your environmental or sustainability initiatives?

    We minimize natural gas and electricity by allowing the brewing process to heat our brewing water.  We use only the water we need for brewing and cleaning. We appreciate what we have and don't seek to upset the natural balance.