California Craft Beer Brewers Balance Drafts and Drought

This article was written by Julie Watson and first appeared on the Associated Press

FALLBROOK, Calif. (AP) -- Amid severe drought, the water board in this Southern California town imposed restrictions on Fallbrook Brewing Co., just as the tiny brewer doubled capacity to meet demand for its craft beers.

To cut monthly water use by about 10 percent, owner Chuck McLaughlin bought an extra 310-gallon tank to catch water used in the brewing process to reuse it for cleaning equipment. His new brewhouse includes a chiller that uses two-thirds less water than his old one.

As a small business, there's no extra money to pay potentially thousands in fines if he exceeds the limit.

So far, "it's been very close," said McLaughlin, whose brewery is run out of a former consignment shop in Fallbrook, a town of 30,000 people about 60 miles north of San Diego.

California has more craft breweries - small, independent beer makers that use traditional ingredients - than any other state. More than 570 are in operation and another 240 are slated to open, according to the California Craft Brewers Association. Craft breweries contributed $6.5 billion to the state economy last year alone, producing 3.5 million barrels.

A typical craft brewery uses up to 7 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of beer. Some in California have decreased that ratio to less than 5-to-1, but they are still being asked to cut back to meet the state mandate, which aims for California's overall urban water use to go down by 25 percent when compared with 2013.

No other state in the drought-plagued West has taken such action...