There’s been some serious hand-wringing over California’s lingering drought. Ranchers are selling off livestock. Growers are expected to let nearly 500,000 acres farmland go unplanted. Even last weekend’s welcomed rain wasn’t enough to lift the official drought state of emergency, nor reverse the decision by water officials to slash allocations to zero for the first time in state history.
California’s farmers and ranchers aren’t the only thirsty food-production niches out there. For San Diego’s craft beer community, worrisome water forecasts could impact their ability to grow their businesses, which is why some are embracing water-saving practices now.
“We brewed 86,000 barrels of beer in 2013,” said Nick Cain, director of quality, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits. “This year we’re expecting to produce well over 100,000 barrels — closer to 120,000. Water is essential to what we do. For us, it’s about being more efficient with the water we do use.”
He’s not just talking about water’s role in converting beer’s sexier ingredients like hops, barley and malt into something more delicious. Cain says that’s only a small part of a brewery’s water use. Cold water is used to cool down the wort — the extracted liquid that contains the sugar that will be fermented during the beer-making process. Hot water is used to clean and sanitize equipment used to make beer. More water is needed to rinse the cleaning agents off, and to clean factory floors. Even staff hand-washing and daily use for employees requires water. It all adds up.