Defend our Beer panelists discuss brewing sustainability at Odell Brewing Company

Audrey Weiss

Panelists at Defend our Future event discuss the sustainability of the brewing industry. (Audrey Weiss | Collegian)

Defend Our Future hosted their Defend Our Beer event at Odell Brewing Monday night to discuss the impact of climate change on the brewing industry. Panelists included brewers, and other experts in the field, all sharing a goal of sustainability through the education of the community.

Jeni Ardnt, a member of the business affairs and labor committee and state representative, spoke broadly on the threat of climate change, especially in regards to its effects on the brewing industry.

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“Republicans need to learn to say climate change, and democrats need to learn to say water storage,” Ardnt said.

Ardnt said she recalled speaking with other politicians, often finding that very few actually discussed climate change. But, all of the panelists agreed that the implications of climate change were clear in their line of work.

Charlie Hoxmeier, the head brewer of Gilded Brewing, found that quality water can only become more scarce as time goes on with the changes in climate. The minerals currently available in the Fort Collins’ water source is sure to change overtime as a result, Hoxmeier said.

“I think that in most cases the question is will we always have access to the type of water we’re accustomed to having,” Hoxmeier said.

In 2017, 9.1 million acres of land was burned, according to Deputy Fire and Aviation Staff Officer of Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forest Paul Cerda. 

“The effects we’ve seen of climate change, specifically here in Colorado—the bark beetle epidemic, the wildfires and drought in 2012, the flood in 2013—all had an effect of forest health, and forest health is important,” Cerda said. “Our wildfire season is longer, and we’re now seeing this trend in wildfires.”

Cerda also spoke on the impact of tourism on Colorado forests. According to Cerda, as the population grows, the amount of human waste and its impact on water quality has grown drastically.

“A huge concern of ours is how are we going to manage the protection of that watershed with the amount of visitors,” Cerda said. “It’s not only visitors but the education of those visitors. Is it sustainable?”

These negatives impacts, however, make way for many innovations in this industry.

Steve Clark, co-founder of Troubadour Brewing focused his discussion on the importance of Barley, and recounted his strives to save energy by using a modulated kiln for the drying of his malted product.

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“There was not a malting system available our size, so we actually had to downsize, and that gave us an opportunity to innovate,” Clark said. 

Clark also spoke highly of the modification of grains to make them more tolerable of temperature changes in order for greater and longer yields.

Clark has found that barley and malted grains are rare in Colorado, due to the majority being provided to Coors. His solution was to plant a new variety of barley to provide barley to breweries located in Colorado.

Andy Seidl, a professor in CSU’s department of agriculture and resource economics, even gave mention to a brewery making their beer out of gray water, an innovative idea but an interesting secret ingredient. 

“There’s a brewery that’s making beer out of gray water,” Seidl said. “Now think about that: (It’s) good for them, but is that where you want to get your beer?”

Arndt and Hoxmeier both emphasized the importance of mindfulness when approaching sustainability.

“As a brewer, the health of my business is so reliant on the health of the water, and small differences can be made now through mindfulness,” Hoxmeier said.

Part of enabling future generations to experience the future of this industry is envisioning a sustainable future, Ardnt said. Much of this is in the hands of the general public.

“Never underestimate the power of community, and the power that you have in a democracy,” Ardnt said.

Collegian news reporter Audrey Weiss can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Audkward.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Jenni Ardnt was a Colorado State University representative and mispelled Charlie Hoxmeier’s last name. Arndt is a representative for the state of Colorado. The article also incorrectly stated that the event hosted by Defend our Future was titled “Defend Our Beer.” The event was titled “Defend Our Brewing.”