In January, the Bear Republic craft brewery gave almost $500,000 to the California town of Cloverdale where it brews its famous Racer 5 IPA. The purpose? To drill two wells to help the Russian River Valley town through epic 2013-14 California drought. Brewing beer takes a lot of water–Bear Republic is one of the largest water consumers in the area. And even though Bear Republic uses a number of conservation techniques to lower its water use to less than half the average–3.5 gallons to make a gallon of beer, whereas the industry standard is 7 gallons–the brewery is still one thirsty enterprise. It also wants to be a good member of the community, which needs water for more reasons that beer brewing.
The wells are set to come online by summer, but it’s not yet problem solved. The drought has shown little sign of abating–the Russian River is practically a trickle–and even the wells supplying an extra 600,000 gallons of water a day won’t be enough to sustain the town. Even though Bear Republic uses less than 2 percent of that, there still may not be enough left over, even though the brewery’s magnanimity is responsible for the added gallons. That means a business like Bear Republic, and its brewmaster Richard “Ricardo” Norgrove, Jr., have to think hard about the future. Norgrove Jr. is a fifth generation Sonoma County resident who wants to stay loyal to his ancestral home. He also wants to pass a healthy business along to his children. Now even his experiment with public/private infrastructure building may turn out not to be enough. He’s thinking–he has to–about going someplace where there’s simply more water.