Good Beer Needs Clean Water

Next time you enjoy a cold one, think of how different it may taste with lower quality water.

Water makes up at least 80% of beer, so it has a significant influence on the taste. “You need clean water to make great beer,” said R.J. Tursi, the founder and CEO of Exile Brewing in Des Moines. “You also want consistent water quality, and that again goes back to clean water.”

In 2022, Exile partnered with the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance to unite Iowans for water quality. The partnership supported conservation practices on farms to improve water quality, and it also led to a special brew called Born Here, Brewed Here.

“The ingredients like rye,barley and hops are actually sourced from Iowa farmers who are also adopting conservation practices to improve water quality,” said Sean McMahon, executive director of the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance.

The beer was also a conversation starter that helped connect agricultural and urban parts of the state. A resident having a beer in Des Moines would end up chatting about conservation practices on the farm designed to improve water.

Cover crops are one of the key practices for water quality. And rye is the most common of those in Iowa.

“That’s a practice that’s very effective at reducing nitrogen loss because if you have a winter hearty variety of cover crops like rye, that’s really effective at scavenging nitrogen, and of course having those living roots in the soil during the spring when we get most of our precipitation, that’s really key to also reducing our soil erosion and phosphorus loss,” McMahon said.

The goal of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy is to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus losses into the water.

The beer brewed in partnership with Iowa farmers was a reminder that water quality takes a collective effort, and the results benefit everyone.

“Once people understand that healthy soil helps promote a healthy environment, which promotes clean water — once they understand how all that is working together in a larger ecology, then they get behind it,” Tursi said.

The release was so successful, Exile is already planning for “Volume 2.” A new version of Born Here, Brewed Here is set for release in 2023.