We last checked in on the California drought in March. At the time, Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association, told us:
“We still have four to six weeks remaining in the rain season, and there is [was] hope that a miracle March might pull us out of the current severe drought conditions,” he told Craft Brewing Business. “There has not been any mandatory restrictions on water use yet. Some water agencies have issued a 20 percent voluntary reduction in water use. Most brewers feel that they can cut back 20 to 25 percent of water use without dramatically affecting operations or cutting back on production.
“Our guess right now is that there will be 20 to 25 percent mandatory restrictions in water use in some areas of the state,” McCormick said. “It is a complex issue here, but most, if not all, of Southern California will likely have zero restrictions on water use. So, it looks like the drought will only impact our members in the northern half of the state.”
Since then, the situation has not improved and only gotten worse. The Los Angeles Times just published a feature titled “State craft brewers fear drought could alter business, and the beer”
As the title may indicate, the news is not uplifting for California’s more than 400 craft breweries or for the craft beer drinking public. Equipment has had to change, water has been reduced, production has been reduced, prices could go up and some breweries are considering moving altogether if this trend doesn’t abate. Yikes. We recommend heading to the LA Times to read the full feature, for the perspective of Lagunitas, Bear Republic, Cismontane Brewing Co. and others.
Here are some quotes that standout, in particular:
Lagunitas, for instance, just opened a major brewhouse in Chicago, where Lake Michigan stands ready to supply its water needs. The company is shifting some production there, Sharyon said, adding: “Our next plant will probably be out of state and next to a stable water supply.”
Beer maker Evan Weinberg, co-founder of Cismontane Brewing Co. in Rancho Santa Margarita, said that if the state doesn’t get “a big influx of water soon,” he and other microbrewers are going to have “some serious issues.”
“Small brewers waste more water than the big guys because our equipment is less efficient,” Weinberg said.
The microbrewer produces 3,000 barrels of beer a year and gets its water delivered by the Santa Margarita Water District from Northern California sources and the Colorado River. The district enacted a voluntary 20% water reduction, but Weinberg is anxious that the district might make that mandatory.
“We have a water cap of 8 million gallons a year, and that’s really affected our growth,” [Bear Republic Brewer Peter] Kruger said.
Bear Republic is installing a waste water-filtration system and helped bankroll the construction of two wells. Plans to grow 35% this year were cut to 15%. Kruger said there are discussions about opening a brewery elsewhere with a “more stable water supply,” but that could alter the taste.