Beer uses water. Dependent on what beer you’re brewing it can use lots of it. But, comparatively, beer uses much less water than many other drinks, including wine and juices. But at 2 gallons of water per ounce, a 16oz beer still uses 32 gallons of water per pint. That means a keg of beer uses 3,968 gallons of water. You should be drinking a gallon of water a day, so a keg of beer accounts for yearly 11 years of drinking water for one person. Yikes!

We recently reported on a pretty exciting new brewing process that removes the need to boil. That process shortens the brewing process and increases brewing efficiency. A new collaboration between Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) of Portland and Patagonia Provisions, the food division of Patagonia clothing company, teamed up to improve brewing process long before brewing.


Kernza grain image courtesy of HUB

HUB and Patagonia have teamed up to brew a beer – using a very unique grain called Kernza – that lowers the amount of water used to produce beer, slows soil loss and sequesters carbon. Patagonia Provisions was founded in 2012 by Yvon Chouinard and Provisions CEO Birgit Cameron. Patagonia Provisions reached out to HUB because of it’s history of sustainable practices, including becoming the first salmon safe brewery in 2015, not to mention they are both certified B Corp businesses.

Beer holds a critical role in society and history. It is the center of many tables, uniting us with its common language. With its wonderful tradition and history of bringing people together, Patagonia Provisions saw an opportunity to use such a widely influential product to tell the story of organic regenerative agriculture, via Kernza, to a wide swath of people with a product we can all enjoy and get behind. All it takes is a small tweak in the way we make our beer to effect big change – we are hoping this message reaches the big brewers of the world. – Birgit Cameron, Director of Patagonia Provisions.

Wheat fields need to be tilled and replanted on an annual basis. This releases carbon from the soil and requires the use of machinery. Kernza is a perennial grain, so it lives for longer than two years. Farmers then don’t have to till the soil every year, which releases carbon from the soil. This also means less machinery is used in maintaining it, which reduces your carbon footprint. It also has more protein than wheat and is lower in gluten strength.

The roots can extend 10 feet or more beneath the soil surface, more than twice the depth of and in greater density than annual wheat roots. In good conditions, the long, slender seed heads can contain more seeds than an annual wheat head, but Kernza® seeds are currently about 1/5th the size of most conventional wheat seeds. – The Land Institute


Image courtesy of HUB

The beer they have brewed is, fittingly, called Long Root Ale. It’s a 5.5% ale brewed with organic two-row barley, organic yeast, organic Chinook, Mosaic and Crystal hops and Kernza. Patagonia says the beer has a “grapefruit hop flavor.” The beer uses 15% Kernza and was a percentage that was agreed upon to maximize the natural Kernza flavors, while also maintaining an efficient brewing process.

Christian Ettinger, the founder and brewmaster of Hop Works, had some concerns going into the brewing process. The seeds are so small that he was concerned the seeds would clog the sieves. Luckily, the seeds became suspended in the mash and added a nutty spiciness to the ale. Christian had this to say about HUB’s experience with Patagonia Provisions

Patagonia Provisions worked with The Land Institute to get production-ready Kernza to Hopworks. We created about five test batches, honing in the recipe on our twenty barrel brewing system over the course of six months. These experiments were tapped at our pubs under a different name and our patrons were big fans of the beer. Kernza is a smaller grain than we normally work with so we had to streamline a new process for milling it. In each new batch we experimented with different percentages of Kernza, different types of hops, and varying quantities of hops. We settled on making a Pale Ale and are very pleased with the slight haze and the nutty, slightly spicy flavor the Kernza imparts.

According to Outside Online, HUB’s first inclination was to produce a big hoppy west coast IPA with the grain, but Patagonia asked for a more sessionable easy drinking ale. The end product was Long Root Ale. Long Root Ale will be available today in 16oz four packs at Whole Foods in Washington, Oregon and California and at both Hopworks brewery locations in Portland.

What steps can the craft brewing community take to build off of these sustainable practices? Tap Trail’s own Aslan Brewing Company is a Certified B Corp. Boundary Bay Brewery has been working on sustainable practices for years. Chuckanut Brewery signed onto a climate change declaration. Our breweries have a great deal of influence, not only in our community, but in regionally and beyond.