As you've likely heard, a sizable chunk of the country is experiencing a severe drought. Beer nerds will recall that water is a key component of the brewing process (it takes between 3.5-5 barrels of water to brew one barrel of beer), so with many breweries operating in drought-affected areas, will output be affected?
Beer giants Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors have both made reductions in their water usage, focusing on facilities in hard-hit states like California, Texas and Colorado. MillerCoors has cut consumption 9.2% from 2012, according to a sustainability report released Wednesday, and earlier this month Anheuser-Busch announced it had reduced usage by 32% since 2011.
With the ever-increasing success of small craft breweries, shrinking water supplies amidst a long drought in big brewing states will affect more than the big guys. As if craft brewing wasn't challenging enough in a highly competitive market, now they'll have more than state restrictions to worry about. In conditions which restrict water for many residents (like, no flushing the loo during daylight hours), the persistent dry weather may eventually drive up the cost of beer, as it has with food. While no restrictions have been put into effect yet, water agencies in some regions of California have requested a voluntary 20% reduction for breweries that may become mandatory if the drought persists.
Even if the quantity of water used isn't a problem yet, the quality may be. In an interview with NPR, California craft brewing masters Lagunitas was apprehensive about the prospect of switching from river water (delicious) to well water (weird colors, smells and flavors).
"It would be like brewing with Alka-Seltzer," said head brewer Jeremy Marshall.
Let's hope it doesn't come to that, or Lagunitas Sucks might actually…well, you know.
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