In Portland, You Can Now Drink Salmon-Safe Beer

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Your beer can be artisanal, local, organic, or gluten-free. Now, it can also be brewed in a “Salmon-Safe” facility.

Founded by the Pacific Rivers Council, Salmon-Safe is a Portland, Oregon-based organization that protects wild salmon in the West Coast watershed by monitoring land management practices. The independent nonprofit lets landowners and businesses go through a certification program to prove they’re using sustainable methods that don’t threaten the state’s marine life.

So far, Nike’s world headquarters, Portland State University, and various hop farms and vineyards have all received Salmon-Safe certifications. Now, Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland has become the first brewery in the nation to earn the label.

Hopworks had to prove that it treats storm and wastewater that passes through its factory and grounds, ensuring that only clean water returns to local tributaries. (That includes wastewater produced by the brewery itself.) It also adopted Salmon-Safe-approved materials, like low-flow faucets, retention ponds, and pervious concrete.

At first glance, one doesn’t necessarily equate beer-brewing with salmon, but beer brewing is a water-intensive process: On average, breweries use about four liters of fresh water for every liter of beer—and environmentalists want that water to stay fresh for the fish.

“Brewers are intensive users of resources, especially water … so it’s important for us to understand what it means to use those things and then do something about it,” Christian Ettinger, Hopworks’ founder, told Hakai Magazine. As more brewers become more mindful of this fact, Ettinger hopes that eco-conscious beer-making methods will be adopted by facilities across the country. 

Breweries have been using Salmon-Safe hops for several years now—but though Hopworks uses Salmon-Safe ingredients and has Salmon-Safe facilities, it's still working on tracking down Salmon-Safe malted barley. Yes, this means that the beer itself isn’t Salmon-Safe. That’s one more hurdle for Hopworks to jump—and for the region’s wild Pacific salmon to swim across.

[h/t Smithsonian]