Hops are part of the picture. Water is 95 percent of beer's ingredients.
Brewer Supply Group Hops are part of the picture. Water is 95 percent of beer's ingredients. © Jake Keeler

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OktoberForest: What's Good for Forests is Good for Water... and Beer!

The brewing tanks at Backyard Brewery and Kitchen in Manchester, New Hampshire
Brews Made Here The brewing tanks at Backyard Brewery and Kitchen in Manchester, New Hampshire © Backyard Brewery and Kitchen

When you think of the ingredients in beer, you probably imagine hops, barley, wheat, and yeast. And you wouldn’t be wrong.  The ales, lagers, stouts and other styles made by New Hampshire brewers are shaped by the subtle mix of these ingredients.

But the main ingredient is still missing, the one that represents more than 95 percent of that recipe—fresh, clean, water.

Whether it’s flowing from our pristine Northern rivers or pumped from Lake Massabesic in Manchester, the origin of that water was a forested watershed that first filtered and stored it like a sponge. In fact, almost all our water in New Hampshire and more than half across the United States is sourced from our forests.

Because the taste of beer is so reliant on a single ingredient, a lack of consistent, clean water would make our brewers unable to create a consistent product - a death knell for any business.

That’s why we care so deeply about the health of our forests, and why breweries across the state have joined with The Nature Conservancy on the OktoberForest campaign.  This month, more than 16 Granite State breweries across the state—both large and small—will be hosting materials, promotions and events to celebrate the connections between healthy forests and clean water, and ways for us to protect and restore forests that need it. You can find out which of your local breweries are participating by visiting oktoberforest.org.

For generations, Granite Staters have been conserving and maintaining our forests for the benefits they provide.  We all know that forests provide essential habitats for wildlife, improve our air quality, as well as generate economic value—think maple syrup, the logging industry, and all those leaf-peepers from Massachusetts.  In fact, a recent study found that every $1 invested in land conservation returned $11 in natural goods and services to the New Hampshire economy.  

Thanks to the hard work of organizations like The Nature Conservancy, the federal and state government and local municipalities, and conservation minded land owners, more that 1.7 million acres of land has been permanently protected across our state.

This history of land conservation is important because forested lands serve as natural infrastructure that help keep our drinking water clean.  Forests act as a natural filter, reducing pollutants that would otherwise enter drinking water systems.  Protecting our forest lands is not only good for our health and the viability of our community water supplies, it is also good for taxpayers and our economy.

Water treatment is expensive, and there is evidence that protecting source water will provide cost-savings to our state. One study determined that for every 10 percent increase in natural land in watershed areas, there is a 20 percent decrease in water treatment costs. The more forested a watershed is, the less expensive it is to treat water.

What are the benefits of healthy forests?  Abundant wildlife. Outdoor recreation.  Economic opportunities.  Clean air and water.  And best of all, great tasting beer!  Think about that as you enjoy the fall colors this year!

We hope you will come out to a New Hampshire brewery this month to raise a glass to the forests that keep our water flowing and our beer tasty. Cheers.

CJ White is the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Brewers Association.  Jim O’Brien is the Director of External Affairs for The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.