Drought threatens to tap out beer industry

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SAN DIEGO – The state-wide drought has local microbreweries, which rely on large amounts of water, considering how they use the precious resource.

Lightning Brewery in Poway uses about 30-gallons of water to make one barrel of beer and larger breweries produce between 60,000 to 115,000 barrels of beer a year, according to the North County Economic Development Council.

“You can’t have beer without water,” said Jim Crute, president of the Poway brewery. “We may make about 1,200 barrels of beer a year, but we use less water than the average household.”

“A one-million barrel a year will use about 10 million barrels of water, and that’s not counting water lost in production and cleaning,” said Crute.

As of July 2014, 80 percent of California is in severe drought and as a result, a statewide mandate now calls for 20 percent cutbacks.

With nearly 90 breweries in San Diego County, owners are wondering if they’ll be tapped out if the dry spell continues.

“What the drought will cause us to do is use more Colorado River water,” said Crute. Water from rivers however, have more mineral content, which can affect the taste it isn’t demineralized.

Crute said he, along with many other small breweries, are already planning ahead.

“The water that we produce from brewing that goes down the drain we can use for irrigation. It’s actually very good water for irrigation and the larger breweries can do the same thing,” said Crute.

Water for California agriculture is like liquid gold and beer is considered just as valuable for San Diego County.

In 2013, North County generated more than $270 million from beer – that’s about $100 million more than what Comic-Con brings in, according to the North County Economic Council.

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