Of the ingredients that make up beer (hops, water, barley, and yeast), water is incredibly important – making up 90-95 percent of a beer’s composition. Mad Swede Brewing Company in Boise, Idaho truly values their water and fully appreciates how important water is not only for their beer, but also, for their community as well. Over the years they have implemented water preservation practices and partnered with other breweries for water conservation efforts. Susie Larson, owner & operator shared,
Larson added that they have implemented a practice with their heat exchanger to help conserve water use. In the beginning stages of beer making, barley and hops are boiled in water. This creates the “wort”. The wort is passed through a heat exchanger on its way to the fermentation tank. At Mad Swede “the heat exchanger cools the wort by running cold water through a plate adjacent to the hot wort. In the exchange, the water is heated. Instead of just running the water down the drain, we pump it back into our hot liquor (aka water) tank. Water from the hot liquor tank is used for brewing the next batch of beer. This also conserves energy by preheating the water on the way to the hot liquor tank” Larson explained.
In 2018, Larson’s brewery participated in “Pure Water Brew”. This was a program where brewers brewed beers using wastewater. The water was purified extensively to make it safe for brewing. “In fact, it was so pure, we had to add minerals back to the water to make it suitable for brewing” Larson quipped.
She explained, “overall, it was a relatively simple process. We pumped our city water out of our hot liquor tank, then thoroughly cleaned that tank in preparation for the water delivery. After the water was purified at the wastewater treatment plant, it was delivered to us by a tanker truck and pumped into our hot liquor tank. We brewed the beer as any normal beer except for the addition of minerals.”
They brewed a hazy IPA, as this style was a top trend. However, Larson remarked, “in retrospect, maybe we should have brewed a clear beer to show off the clarity of the water. Our thinking at the time was to demonstrate that when using purified wastewater, the beer produced would be just as delicious as beer brewed using city water.”
Outside of water, the brewery supports other community organizations. One that is very special to the brewery is their annual fundraiser called “Birds & Brew”. This fundraiser supports the World Center for Birds of Prey, an organization that has brought back several species from the brink of extinction. Last year they also brewed “Peregrine Pilsner” and donated all of the profits from the beer in support of those conservation efforts. “We want to do our part to protect the environment so the world can thrive as one giant ecosystem,” said Larson.
“We are continually on the lookout for ways to increase our sustainability,” Larson reiterated. They understand beer is an agricultural product and is part of a complex ecosystem, that they do all they can to honor and repair. They do all this, while still producing award-winning, innovative beer.