By: Pamela Brulotte, Owner of Icicle Brewing Company
April 2014 Sitting on a sunny patio amidst the beautiful, wild scenery of Leavenworth drinking a local craft beer makes it easy to appreciate the benefits of wild lands and waters. From here, we can’t see our water source that helps create the craft beer of Icicle Brewing Company, but it is never far from our minds.
The headwaters of Icicle Creek, our water source, is located in the nearby Alpine Lakes proposed Wilderness area. Since Washington Wild’s current work was already protecting our water joining the Washington Wild Brewshed® Alliance to help spread awareness of how the work benefited beer was a natural connection.
My husband, Oliver, and I both started in agriculture, so we are intimately aware of all the water demands of the brewing industry. The plant-based ingredients for beer require water, but the actual process of brewing is also incredibly water intensive, which combine for a considerable water footprint. Beer is over 90% water, and only a fraction of the water required for brewing is represented in the final glass. At any point the water composition or quality can impact the final taste of the beer in a variety of ways.
Being in Leavenworth, a Bavarian town, naturally some of our beers are made in the Germanic tradition. According to German purity laws, only four base ingredients are allowed: malt, yeast, hops, and, of course, water. Furthermore, the brewer is prohibited from making any additions to the water to counteract the original profile or taste, regardless of if they are good, bad or indifferent. This constraint makes water quality all the more important.
Despite the restrictions of the purity law, we are able to adhere to its spirit largely due to the high water quality of Icicle Creek. We rarely have to treat the water because the water is protected, uncontaminated, and it naturally has a terrific pH for brewing. These factors keep our beer pure while giving it a distinct and locally delicious flavor. The water really is what makes the beer uniquely great tasting.
Since our source water inherently defines our beer, we thought it should also define the brewery, which made naming the brewery easy. Additionally, Icicle Creek is a defining landmark for the Leavenworth community; other businesses and local roads throughout the town are also named after the river. The brewery practically named itself, after both the landmark and the water it relies on.
When we opened Icicle Brewing Company it filled a hole in the community since we were the only brewery in town. We immediately received an incredible amount of local support, which enabled us to pour our first beer within a year of breaking ground. The brewery offers the community a great place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the area while drinking a great craft beer. Both our beer and food menu are based on “keeping it local” values. It is incredibly important to us to support our regional community, which includes offering locally produced foods and buying local ingredients.
Part of the brewery’s mission statement is to be sustainable, not just financially, but also environmentally. By being responsible with the resources we use for our final product, we are able to continue production, which keeps customers happy and returning. Environmental sustainability naturally builds the foundation for financial sustainability by securing an all-encompassing and responsible bottom line.
Because we have a vested interest as both a brewery and a sustainable business, the Washington Brewshed Alliance is an obvious partnership. Our product as a brewery—and subsequently our business — relies on our water source staying pure and clean, so naturally we want to voice our support for the work of Washington Wild, Alpine Lakes, and the Washington Brewshed Alliance.
With our roots in agriculture and brewing we intuitively understand the complex relationship between water and beer, but to others outside those industries we know the connection may not be as obvious. Building awareness of this connection is a crucial step in making everyone in the beer community, from brewers to patrons, more environmentally conscious. It is critically important that people don’t take water and all it does for us for granted. We are excited to be a brewery partner of the Washington Brewshed Alliance and to help spread that crucial message to help people see wild lands and waters in a new light, as a Brewshed.
Pamela Brulotte and her husband Oliver are the owners of Icicle Brewing Company in Leavenworth, WA and a member of the Washington Wild Brewshed Alliance.