AUSTIN (KXAN) — The coffee shops and craft breweries that so many Austinites love depend on water, and lots of it. Local businesses are working to keep operations flowing while also helping community members through the city’s first-ever citywide boil water notice.
Breweries in town have been able to step up to produce extra boiled water for their neighbors, as many breweries are already used to boiling large quantities of water.
“A huge amount of our job is boiling liquid and really keeping pathogens out of our product,” explained Christopher Byram, the assistant brewer at Black Star Co-Op Pub and Brewery.
Since the boil water notice went out, Black Star has been offering up extra boiled water, donating to animal shelters, hospices and anyone who walks in looking for water.
“We were like, ‘Yeah, we can totally comply and make this happen,'” said Byram.”It will be kind of a tricky thing to get the kitchen on board and have this work, but it’s really not a big deal considering our facility. We keep twelve, almost thirteen barrels of beer hot at almost any given anytime anyway, so we have a good reservoir of water we have got about that capacity or a little bit more of cold water as well.”
North by Northwest Brewery is also offering up free boiled water at both its locations.
“I’ve got about 800 gallons ready to go,” explained Kevin Roark, the head brewer for North by Northwest. “I’ve got to brew this week, so I have to use some of that for brewing, but we also have a lot that we can use in the restaurant and give out to people.”
While the city of Austin recommends boiling city water for three minutes, Roark boils the water for half an hour at the brewery.
Roark admits the boil water notice requires extra work. It has forced North by Northwest to find new ways to ensure dishes, glasses and employee’s hands stay clean.
“I’m hoping it ends in a few days,” Roark said.
Austin city manager Spencer Cronk clarified Tuesday afternoon that the boil water notice will likely last several more days, not several more weeks.
Jester King Brewery also posted on social media noting that anyone who wants to fill up on one to five gallons of water can stop by their brewery during business hours. As Jester King is located on a 750 foot deep well and is a certified public water source, they are confident in the quality of water.
Some breweries are curbing production in the name of saving water, Austin Beerworks said on Twitter Tuesday that while their taproom and cantina will remain open, they will stop brewing to to heed the city’s request to conserve water.
“Assuming this lasts the rest of this week, that should save around 75,000 gallons – but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to fill up your hot tub,” Austin Beerworks tweeted. “Please do your part to make sure clean water is available for the most critical needs.”
Austin Beerworks added that stopping their brewing during this boil water notice might lead to short-term outages of their beers around town.
Some coffee shops are leaning on breweries to get clean water, too. Epoch Coffee posted on Facebook that it is able to stay open with a limited menu thanks to help from the Brewtorium Brewery and Kitchen.
Epoch told KXAN on Facebook that all of its locations will remain open.
“It hasn’t been easy, but we are doing our best and it really puts into perspective what it means for a city like Flint, Michigan, to go so long without clean water,” Epoch Coffee replied to KXAN. “We’ve only been at it a couple of days here! It’s also been incredible to see the beer and coffee industries work together to keep the city caffeinated.”
Cuvée Coffee has been managing thanks to its cold brew facility, which is located in Spicewood, outside Austin city limits. Instead of bringing kegs of cold brew down to their East Austin coffee bar, they are bringing down hundreds of gallons of water from Spicewood.
Cuvée CEO Mike McKim said he is grateful to have a facility in Spicewood. He is not sure how they’d manage this boil water notice otherwise.
“If we weren’t able to serve coffee, it would have a massive massive negative impact not only on the business but also on the staff that works here,” McKim explained.
“Everybody’s pitching in, everyone’s in great spirits. It’s really exciting to watch people come in and be like, ‘You guys are actually brewing coffee?'” McKim said. “It’s almost like it’s Christmas day for them.”
But, as many other coffee shops struggle to stay open without normal water flow, Cuvée is getting in calls even a day in advance trying to reserve large quantities of coffee.
“The biggest bump we’ve seen is people coming in buying a gallon, two gallons, five gallons, ten gallons of coffee to go to take back to their office,” McKim said. “We’re gonna do our best, we’re gonna do everything we can to meet that demand.”
McKim said the next thing he’s hoping to do is to can water from their Spicewood location to give out to people.
These efforts to secure clean water are not just an act of community service, all of the companies KXAN spoke with explained it requires lots of extra manual work to wash hands and dishes. Many of them are also boiling pots of water on the stove just like the rest of Austin.