Craft conservation: The new effort to save Texas water sources through beer

Hays

DRIFTWOOD, Texas (KXAN) — If you have a favorite brewery, you also have a favorite watershed.

A new effort from conservation groups and local breweries aims to connect those two ideas, that good craft beer must start with good, clean water.

“That water flows through, and it picks up minerals and nutrients, but it can also pick up pollutants. All of these things affect the quality of downstream beer,” said Thomas Waymouth, director of the new Texas Brewshed Alliance.

Waymouth and his wife brought the idea to the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association when they moved to the Hill Country from Oregon, where one of the first brewshed alliances was established in 2015. There are now at least five others, in Texas, Washington, Maine, Colorado and Idaho.

The organization connects breweries with the conservation groups working to protect their local water sources — their “brewsheds.”

The Texas Brewshed Alliance is hosting a member appreciation event Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Vista Brewing in Driftwood. The public is invited to attend to sample beers from member breweries and learn more about the group’s efforts.

There are nine members around central Texas so far: Vista, Real Ale Brewing Company, Hops and Grain Brewing, Black Star Co-op, Texas Beer Company, Oddwood Ales, Roughhouse Brewing, Blue Star Brewing Company and the Shady Llama beer garden.

Vista co-founder Kent Killough started the brewery in May 2018 “with the goal of building a beautiful destination that celebrates the history and the beauty of the Texas Hill Country.”

One of the key features, he told KXAN, is the Trinity Aquifer that resides under the property. He drilled down hundreds of feet to get to the bottom of the water source, from which he pumps up mineral-rich water that reacts differently with his ingredients than another source would.

“It’s basically a multivitamin for the yeast,” Killough said.

Vista produces a wide variety of beer styles, from IPAs to Belgian- and German-inspired brews, and it confuses some customers. “They’re like, ‘Well, wait, what’s the theme here?’ Well, guys, the theme is our water.”

The first phase for the Texas Brewshed Alliance is to start conversations about conservation; the next step will be to implement more water conservation measures at member breweries.

A handful of beer-makers will collaborate on a recipe in the coming weeks; each will use the same ingredients to brew a batch of beer. The only difference will be the water supply.

“So we’ll be doing an aquifer water beer, a rainwater beer, and an Austin city water beer,” Waymouth said. “That way, people can taste the difference that water has on the beer.”

The brews will debut at the U.S. Water Alliance’s One Water Summit in Austin in September. The national conference promotes sustainability and water conservation.

Currently the breweries involved in the alliance are based around central Texas; Waymouth eventually wants it to be a true statewide organization, partnering with Texas’ 250-plus breweries and their corresponding conservation groups.

Every Texan needs access to good beer, the alliance believes, and that starts with access to a good, sustainable water source.

“It’s really important for everybody to be a part of the conversation,” Waymouth said, “and that conversation is much better had over a glass of cold craft beer.”

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