Craft Beer Industry Impact on California Drought

Craft Beer Industry Impact on California Drought

When mandatory water restrictions tightened up even further in California last week, we wanted to take a look at the amount of water it takes to brew beer. If California accounts for such a large percentage of US beer production, that cannot be good for our dwindling water supply, right?

The LA Times released this infographic (or click below) in April that showed beer, soy milk, and grapefruit juice are the least water intensive beverages to produce, which factored in planting, watering / feeding, and manufacturing / production into their conclusion.

What a relief, beer has a small aquatic footprint! But then we noticed the scary fact in their data. Beer was listed at a 2 ounce serving size, which took 2 gallons of water to produce per ounce, meaning 24 gallons of water were required to brew one 12 ounce bottle of beer. Yikes.

This Mother Jones infographic (or click below) painted a less damning picture of water use in brewing, claiming beer only needs 14.5 gallons of water for one 12 ounce bottle, which cut the previous number in almost half.

Maybe things aren’t so bad, but that still seems like quite a bit of water to create just one 12 ounce serving of craft brew. You will also notice that California’s largest beverage industry — wine, needs 13 gallons of water for 4 ounces, or 39 gallons for 12 ounces.

An article at Quartz, based on the Public Policy Institute of California study carried out for the California Craft Brewers Association, best explained the brewing industry’s footprint in California’s water supply.

Their most alarming statistic was that 3-7 barrels of water (1 barrel = 31 gallons) were used to yield one finished gallon of beer. One would assume this “production phase” included actual water as an ingredient, in addition to rinsing, cleaning the facility, and brewing equipment.

The good news, was that the most water intensive portion of the brewing process took place out of state, where almost all the barley and hops used by California brewers are grown. If those crops were grown within the state, you could add an additional 590 gallons of water per gallon of brewed beer. That’s an astounding increase per gallon, so thank you Washington…

Living in our drought-ridden state should not have us celebrating anything having to do with increased water use, but the PPIC report helped put things into perspective on actual usage, and how much water out of state sourced ingredients are saving California.

So what is the scientific conclusion? Dr. Jeffrey Mount, one of the PPIC report authors stated:

Craft beer has little to no impact on California’s drought.

Okay, then. Cheers. (Even though that sounds hard to believe…)

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