Five North American craft beer producers taking conservation-minded approaches to an age-old craft.
[by Seth L. Fields]
Whether you are sipping a cold one while stocking the fly box, kicking your feet up streamside, or blowing the froth off a fresh pint with friends after a long day on the river, fishing and beer just seem to go well together. Behind every great beer is a great brewery, and behind every great fishery are the labors of conservation. But sometimes, great breweries help build better fisheries.
The relationship between great beer and trout basically boils down to one simple fact: Clean water equals better beer and healthier populations of trout. Several breweries across the country are keying in on this fact and quickly becoming influential and innovative coldwater fishery stewards. Some are even raising the bar when it comes to decreasing the ecological footprint of doing business and lightening their impact on their most important resource—clean, cold water.
Here are a few microbreweries and large, national labels (in no particular order) that pride themselves on being conservation-minded suds makers that protect waterways and the trout and salmon that call them home.
New Belgium Brewing Co.
The New Belgium Brewing Company has spent the last 25 years building a reputation as a conservation-minded company and clean-water advocate with an unrivaled energy and passion for earth-friendly businesses practices. The folks at New Belgium are not taking a backseat to anyone in terms of conservation and sustainability. Their unbridled passion for water quality has resulted in an array of programs and campaigns aimed at protecting our most vital natural resources.
The company founded the Save the Colorado watershed initiative, the Brewers for Clean Water campaign, and its trademark $1 per Barrel program—an ambitious endeavor to fund local efforts to teach youth about the environment, advocate for bicycle use, promote sustainable agriculture practices, and restore and conserve water resources. You can bet this brand will always be synonymous with sustainability and great beer.
- Established: 1991.
- Home: Fort Collins, Colorado; Asheville, North Carolina.
- Local Waters: Cache la Poudre (CO); French Broad River (NC).
- Flagship Beer: Fat Tire Amber Ale.
- Annual Production: 945,000 barrels.
- Powered By: A 300 kW solar array and methane-rich biogas created by the brewing process power generators for 15 percent of New Belgium’s total energy needs.
- Endeavors: New Belgium’s “$1 per Barrel” program has raised and donated $1.7 million to water conservation causes since 2009. The brewery purchases upwards of 10 percent of its hops from Salmon-Safe-certified sources. The brewery also founded the Save the Colorado and Brewers for Clean Water campaigns.
- Mantra: “We know that good beer needs clean water, and we strive to steward the rivers that we depend upon through both our actions and our words on a regular basis.”
Highland Brewing Co.
The western corner of North Carolina is prime trout fishing real estate. The greater Asheville area, specifically, has more trout streams crammed into its landscape per square mile than anywhere else in the country. In the heart of Asheville lies the area’s most celebrated brewery; the Highland Brewing Company. It is the original craft brewery of Western North Carolina and the beverage of choice for locals and visitors alike. As Highland’s distribution range increases, more and more people are becoming familiar with the Highland brand, its amazing beers, and a company that is a great environmental steward.
While many breweries focus conservation efforts on specific watersheds, Highland is not afraid to dream big and approach conservation from a pragmatic point of view. It has joined forces with U.S. Fish & Wildlife and the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to form the For Love of Beer & Mountains initiative, which helps protects 69,000 acres of prime North Carolina and Tennessee mountain range. Together these groups raise awareness of the natural treasures that make the western reaches of the Appalachians such an amazing place. Every seasonal beer Highland releases is named after a specific feature of the local landscape that is closely monitored by the For Love of Beer & Mountains program. This small craft brewery is making a big difference in the hills of North Carolina and the rivers that run through them. As Highland grows and the brand becomes more recognized throughout the country, expect even bigger and better things.
- Established: 1994.
- Home: Asheville, North Carolina.
- Local Water: Mills River.
- Flagship Beer: Gaelic Ale.
- Annual Production: 42,000 barrels.
- Powered By: A 250 kW solar array.
- Endeavors: Founding partner of the For Love of Beer & Mountains program, Highland has also adopted a stretch of French Broad River for regular river cleanups.
- Mantra: “Do what is right, for the environment, community, and economy.”