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Clean water key to making beer

Published: 10/29/2019 3:29:24 PM

When you think of the ingredients in beer, you probably imagine hops, barley, wheat, and yeast. And you wouldn’t be wrong. The ales, lagers, stouts and other styles made by New Hampshire brewers are shaped by the subtle mix of these ingredients.

But the main ingredient is still missing, the one that represents more than 95 percent of that recipe – fresh, clean, water.

Whether it’s flowing from our pristine Northern rivers or pumped from Lake Massabesic in Manchester, the origin of that water was a forested watershed that first filtered and stored it like a sponge. In fact, almost all our water in New Hampshire and more than half across the United States is sourced from forests.

Because the taste of beer is so reliant on a single ingredient, a lack of consistent, clean water would make our brewers unable to create a consistent product – a death knell for any business.

Internationally, October and beer have a close association. The annual Oktoberfest celebration held in Germany attracts 16 million people a year. Attendees consume 7.7 million liters of beer on average each year.

Here in New Hampshire, beer is also big business. The past decade has seen an explosion of craft breweries across the state. There are now 7.6 breweries per 100,000 residents, with an economic impact estimated at $452 million – firmly placing New Hampshire as one of the top states in the country for beer enthusiasts. Ensuring access to, and availability of clean water is central to the industries continued growth.

For generations, Granite Staters have been conserving and maintaining our forests for the benefits they provide. We all know that forests provide essential habitats for wildlife, improve our air quality, as well as generate economic value – think maple syrup, the logging industry, and all those leaf-peepers from Massachusetts and beyond. In fact, a recent study found that every $1 invested in land conservation returned $11 in natural goods and services to the New Hampshire economy.

This history of land conservation is important because forested lands serve as natural infrastructure that help keep our drinking water clean. Forests act as a natural filter, reducing pollutants that would otherwise enter drinking water systems. Protecting our forest lands is not only good for our health and the viability of our community water supplies, it is also good for taxpayers and our economy.

Water treatment is expensive, and there is evidence that protecting source water will provide cost-savings to our state. One study determined that for every 10 percent increase in natural land in watershed areas, there is a 20 percent decrease in water treatment costs. The more forested a watershed is, the less expensive it is to treat water.

While New Hampshire is one of the most forested states in the country, there is much work to be done to conserve and restore important forestland to help ensure the future of clean, reliable drinking water. And beer.

This fall, we invite you to hike your brew-shed. Get out to enjoy and experience firsthand the New Hampshire forests that provide you with clean water. Then stop by your local brewery and make the delicious connection between those forests and great tasting beer.

CJ White is the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Brewers Association. Jim O’Brien is the Director of External Affairs for The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire.


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