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Craft breweries feeling the drought's impact

Our expanding drought conditions are taking a toll on the booming craft beer industry.
Our expanding drought conditions are taking a toll on the booming craft beer industry. At more than 400 California has the most craft breweries in the country. Some breweries are looking to move out of state because of water supply concerns.

Craft brew is a major business and a growing one for Tioga Sequoia. The brewmaster there says the operation is already taking steps to conserve water.

To brew up one gallon of beer it takes about five gallons of water, a key ingredient that's also a precious resource we're seeing very little of these days.

"Obviously the beer is made with water to start with," said Tioga Sequoia Brewmaster Kevin Cox. "We have to wash tanks; we have to do equipment, rinse bottles."

California has the most craft brewers of any state and it's also in the worst drought situation in the country.

Major breweries can use as much as 2 million gallons of water a year.

"They also use a heck of a lot more water than us little guys," Cox said. "But for us, we do the best we can. Basically we recover our water that we use to cool our wort that goes into become beer."

Cox said the recovered water is then used to cool the next batch of wort, which goes on to make beer. The company's bottling machine also collects and reuses the water that rinses down bottles as they're filled.

What beer drinkers pay at the tap, Cox said, shouldn't go up unless the drought forces water rate increases or rationing.

"Obviously, we're about 'drink local.' we want to be here," he says. "So that's a real nightmare scenario for us, so hopefully it won't get there."

Craft beer drinkers are used to paying a higher price for this premium beer. "I drink for the flavor, for the quality and the taste," said Fresno resident Juan Saldanas. "So I will definitely pay for it if it goes up."

As large brewers leave the state to find a secure and abundant water source, Tioga Sequoia is keeping its brew in the valley.

Water is a necessity in this booming business, but it's one brewers say they're willing to find ways to conserve. Some of the major traditional breweries, like Anheuser-Busch, report cutting water use by as much as 32 percent.



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