Food by VICE

'Salmon-Safe' Beer Is a Thing Now

Like craft coffee, artisanal salt, and urban cider before it, the Beaver State may be tapping into another eco-friendly market with this beer certification.

by Nick Rose
Oct 6 2015, 6:00pm

Photo via Flickr user Katmai National Park and Preserve

It takes a lot of water to make beer. And salmon need water to survive. In most parts of the country, these are completely separate realities. But in the state of Oregon, where millions environmentally conscious beer-drinking humans coexist with millions of delicious salmon, there is significant overlap between the two.

So much so, that "Salmon-Safe" certification, usually limited to farms and vineyards, could become the next badge of environmental awareness for Northwestern brewers.

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Portland-based Hopworks Urban Brewery, has become the first-ever brewery to become certified "Salmon-Safe." The not-for-profit initiative has a pretty straightforward mission; "Salmon-Safe works to keep our urban and agricultural watersheds clean enough for native salmon to spawn and thrive." In doing so, they have certified over 95,000 acres of farm and urban lands in Oregon, Washington, California, and British Columbia.

Though over 200 vineyards in the Pacific Northwest have also been designated "Salmon-Safe," Hopworks is the first beer producer to become so. And for the company's founder and brewmaster Christian Ettinger, the certification was a no-brainer. Hopworks already uses "Salmon-Safe" hops to brew its beers, and the decision was as much about flavour as it was about the environment.

"Hopworks has long recognized the relationship between clean and abundant water and great beer," Ettinger told The Portland Tribune. "Using Salmon­-Safe hops was a first step. Now we that we have received our Salmon­-Safe Site Certification we can ensure that all water leaving our campus is fit for the fish and the people of the Pacific Northwest."

But getting certification is not just a matter of proclaiming one's love for wildlife and clean beer. Hopworks had to prove that they have no detrimental impact on the local watershed, which is a chunk of land where rain water, melting snow, or ice converge to a single point and inevitably come into contact with marine life.

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"Joining with Hopworks means that we are working with a national environmental leader in craft beer," Salmon-­Safe co­founder and executive director told The Portland Tribune. "We anticipate that breweries across the West Coast will follow their lead in transforming how brewing sites and operations impact local watersheds."

The state has the highest amount of breweries per capita, but also a billion-dollar salmon industry. This unlikely overlap of beer and fish may prove to be a new way of making consumers aware of just how far-reaching their impact on the environment is.

WATCH: The MUNCHIES Guide to Oregon, Part 4: Water's Bounty