The group Environment Florida put a new face on the fight for clean water – beer.
In order to draw increased attention to water quality issues facing Floridians, the group hosted a clean water forum at 3 Daughters brewery in St. Pete Tuesday night. The evening’s keynote speaker was Jim Leonard, chemist and lab director for the brewery.
We’re talking Breaking Bad beer brewing … minus the Walter White, law-breaking shenanigans.
Leonard pointed out how important water is to brewing beer. For every barrel of beer made, seven barrels of water are used. And that water needs to be just right.
“Hops and yeast can be shipped in, …. the water is the only ingredient that can truly be called local,” Leonard said.
There are all sorts of fancy science words involved here. Germination. Ions. Reverse osmosis. The bottom line is, there’s a lot of treatment that goes into making water just right to brew the best beer.
If the water is too pure, yeast won’t survive. Soft water lends to lighter brews. Hard water is better for ales.
“You really need to monitor the water source,” Leonard said. “We test the water on a regular basis.”
So, that was the attention-grabber. Want good beer? Well, better have good water. Period.
And it worked. More than 100 people crowded the brewery to listen to Leonard present his truncated science of beer demonstration. But that meant they also got to hear from Jennifer Rubiello, field associate for Environment Florida.
“We all depend on fresh, clean water. Unfortunately, way too many of the rivers, lakes and streams that criss-cross our whole entire state are not fully protected from development or pollution,” she said.
Rubiello is trying to rally support for tougher pollution standards for Florida’s waterways by closing loopholes in the Clean Water Act that allow industries like oil, sugar and agriculture to pollute waterways.
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new rule last year that would clarify standards under the Clean Water Act, but industries affected by that rule are pushing back.
“They’re lobbying hard to keep dumping in our streams and paving over many of our wetlands,” Rubiello said.
Also on hand was St. Pete City Council member Darden Rice. She urged residents to be vigilant and demand lawmakers resist caving to the well-funded voices of special interests.
Rice likened water to the city’s Pier, which is getting an over-abundance of media attention as the city prepares to select a design to replace the iconic inverted pyramid.
“The Pier is all about the symbol of our relationship to water,” Rice said.
Water quality in Tampa Bay, which the Pier overlooks, has historically struggled. However, past and continued efforts by groups like The Tampa Bay Estuary Program and the Sierra Club have fought hard to implement local fertilizer ordinances and state protections to restore sea grass and increase water quality.
Many previous proposals for a new St. Pete Pier included interactions with the Bay like swimming. Critics pointed to poor water quality as reasons why that was not feasible. These groups hope that argument will continue to wane as water quality continues to improve.