A brewer, a food scientist and a hops farmer go walking into a theater…
While that easily could be the opening line of a terrible joke, thankfully it was the actual makings of a radio program that kicked off a new joint venture from Minnesota Public Radio and American Media Works.
The Water Main is new focus area from Public Radio that intends to, “make sense of the central and complex role that water plays in our lives– from our economy to our well being, mood and even our cultural and spiritual identities.”
One of their first offerings was a show called “Know Water, Know Beer” which took place at Minneapolis’ Southern Theater. The program looked at the relationship between our local waters and our local beers.
MPR’s Chris Farrell moderated the conversation with Insight Brewing Co-Founder Ilan Klages-Mundt, Summit Brewing Quality Manager Rebecca Newman and Mighty Axe Hops Farm Co-Founder Ben Boo.
Klages-Mundt told Farrell that he traveled around the world educating himself on beer-making by working at various breweries. Once he felt he had a grasp on the basics, he started Insight Brewing in 2014 in the North East corner of Minneapolis.
Similarly, Newman had worked at a variety of brewers around the country before landing at Summit in 2015. She said that what sets Minnesota apart is the quality of our water. As the primary ingredient in beer, access to clean water is a great start toward great beer.
Boo graduated from college, and with a friend, planted 25 hops plants on a farm owned by his business partner’s grandparents. The test plot worked, and now Mighty Axe is raising 80 acres of hops annually.
When it comes to water conservation, Boo said that his farm runs a drip irrigation system to cut down on watering costs, and they also have implemented buffers to fit with the new state buffer law. Newman said that Summit is cutting water use by utilizing ionized air when possible to replace water in the cleaning process. And Klages-Mundt said they are on track to become the state’s first 100 percent solar-powered brewery.
When asked what the beer consumer can do to preserve water, Newman suggested purchasing less cans and bottles, and buying more beer by the glass at a bar or taproom. She also made a compelling case for why beer growlers are the least environmentally responsible form of beer consumption, due to production and cleaning costs.
The Water Main is intended to be a long-term catalyst in the conversation about water and how Americans interact with it on a daily basis. The project has raised more than a million dollars in donations to fund the ongoing work.