Gene Muller of Flying Fish Brewing Co. on the important role that forests play for our water supply - and our beer.
By Gene Muller on September 23, 2017
When I founded Flying Fish Brewing Co. in 1995, I called it “the world’s first virtual microbrewery.” Initially, our company’s main goal was to provide via our website a behind the scenes look at what goes into beer making, with a goal of generating attention from investors and the media. It was compelling, and we succeeded—and today are the largest craft brewery in New Jersey.
We’re applying a similar principle now as we partner with The Nature Conservancy for OktoberForest. Together, we are trying to help raise awareness about how important clean water is to good beer, and to highlight the critical role that forests play—behind the scenes—in providing it.
Beer is 90 percent water, but we also use water for such things as cleaning, sanitizing and steam for our processes. In beer production, there is water everywhere! The Flying Fish facility is located in Somerdale, across from Philadelphia, so the Delaware River is an important water resource for us. It also happens to be the drinking water source for 17 million people in our region. The quality of the Delaware’s water depends on forests way upstream in northwestern New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.
The Delaware River © Nicholas Tonelli
While those upstream forests may be out of our sight, it is important they are not out of our thoughts—because they are responsible for filtering, cooling and oxygenating the water that ultimately flows to our pipes. That’s good for business, not just for better tasting beer, but economically. As my friends at The Nature Conservancy tell me, for every 10% increase in forest cover in a water source area, water treatment costs decrease by about 20%.
Our brewery operations are built around sustainability, from solar power and recycling to high-efficiency brewing equipment. We have a rain garden right outside our front door that provides small-scale, forest-like services: preventing soil erosion, soaking up water that would otherwise contribute to flooding in a nearby creek, filtering impurities from storm runoff, and providing food and habitat for wildlife. It’s a reminder to our visitors of the important role nature plays behind the scenes all the time in our daily lives.
I’m pleased to have teamed up with The Nature Conservancy for OktoberForest. They have protected more than 55,000 acres of land and forest in New Jersey, and are about halfway through the process of planting 100,000 trees in the areas surrounding our state’s rivers by 2020. Many of those trees are reforesting the banks of the Paulins Kill, a major tributary to the Delaware River, so that conservation work really becomes—in essence—part of our production process at Flying Fish. It’s all interconnected. And nature, ultimately, is the master brewer.
Gene Muller founded Flying Fish Brewing Co. in 1995.
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