OktoberForest: Leinenkugel's

October in Wisconsin is when many of us get out and enjoy the fall color, pick apples and watch some great football. The Nature Conservancy is adding to the fun with OktoberForest, a collaboration with local breweries, including Leinenkugel’s and MillerCoors, to raise awareness about the important role that forests play in our water supply. We asked Leinenkugel’s Brewmaster John Buhrow and Assistant Brewmaster John Hensley for their thoughts about the interconnected relationship of beer, water and forests.

nature.org:

Tell us a little about your brewery.

John Buhrow and John Hensley:

Leinenkugel’s is celebrating 150 years of making beer this year. Jacob Leinenkugel established a brewery here in Chippewa Falls back in 1867 partly because the pure water that ran through town was a perfect ingredient for crafting beer. To this day, when we discharge water from our operations to the stream that flows through our property, we test to make sure that water is as clean or cleaner than the water already flowing in the stream.

nature.org:

Where does Leinenkugel’s get the water it uses to make its beer and how much do you use?

John Buhrow and John Hensley:

We get our water from the City of Chippewa Falls. That water comes from the creeks, lakes and marshlands in Rusk and Chippewa counties. Some of it may come from as far as Lake Superior. Our goal is to use three gallons of water for every gallon of beer we produce by 2020. We’re not there yet, but we are getting close. Since 2001, we’ve cut our water use at Leinenkugel’s in half.

nature.org:

Why do brewers like you care about Wisconsin’s forests?

John Buhrow and John Hensley:

Our brewery sits in the middle of Wisconsin’s Northwoods, so the forests are important for the quality of the beer we produce, not to mention our tourism industry. We’ve been partnering with the Little Lake Wissota Stewardship Program since 2011 to plant 40,000 trees in the area. They will help absorb nutrient runoff from farmland, reducing algal blooms in the lake and increasing the number of swimmable days people can enjoy.

nature.org:

What are some other sustainable practices Leinenkugel’s pursues?

John Buhrow and John Hensley:

In addition to reducing water consumption, we are also making changes to reduce the amount of energy we use. Our brewery has been certified landfill-free, meaning we divert or recycle all our waste. For example, we send our spent yeast to a cogeneration facility where they convert it to natural gas. But we are always looking to improve. We are one of the oldest breweries in the U.S., and we know that with that heritage comes a responsibility to care for our environment and the communities where we operate.


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