Photo credit: Alley Kat beer at Farley Lake, pic by Adam Linnard
You can’t have great beer without great water.
That’s according to craft beer companies in Edmonton, Canada — Bent Stick Brewing and Alley Kat Brewing Company — who have joined forces with conservation groups to support protection of the Bighorn Backcountry, the source of 88 per cent of the city’s drinking — and brewing — water.
The beer producers support the Love Your Headwaters campaign initiated by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Northern Alberta chapter and Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y).
Love Your Headwaters is working to secure Wildland Provincial Park status for 6,717 square-kilometres of mountains, foothills, glaciers, lakes and rivers west of Rocky Mountain House. This is where the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River are providing clean water for Edmonton’s homes and industries, including breweries.
Bent Stick and Alley Kat joined the effort because they know good, clean water is essential for a top notch beer, but also to have a positive impact in their community.
“Sure, beer is great. But great beer doesn't happen without great water,” says Scott Kendall, co-founder of Bent Stick. “The headwaters of the Rocky Mountains are the single most important natural resource in our province because they sustain our lives, and the agricultural and economic activities Albertans participate in every day.
“We at Bent Stick Brewing realize the need to protect this precious resource that flows through our great city for the benefit of everyone. We ask that you join us in supporting the efforts of CPAWS and Y2Y to ensure a bright, clean future for the Bighorn region,” Kendall says.
"Here at Alley Kat, we’re passionate about keeping our operations sustainable and contributing to a cleaner planet wherever we can,” says Lacey Cropley, marketing manager for Alley Kat. “We are incredibly lucky to have some of the best water in the world at our doorstep, so looking after that resource is of the utmost importance. Protecting our headwaters is important to us because as long as we want to continue to brew great beer, we need great water.”
Currently most of the Bighorn Backcountry is managed as a series of Public Land Use Zones. This provincial designation allows resource extraction, industrial development, and motorized recreation, on a case-by-case basis.
Each of these land-uses as currently practiced in the Bighorn has the potential to seriously impact water quality and quantity for downstream users. The Love Your Headwaters campaign is advocating for a Wildland Provincial Park designation to allow hunting, fishing and quiet recreation while prioritizing water, wilderness and wildlife.
“Water is the foundation of everything we have, including one of life's great pleasures — beer — and this is an opportunity to remind people of that,” explains Tara Russell, program director at CPAWS Northern Alberta.
“There’s an explosion of craft breweries in Edmonton right now, and they’re getting their main ingredient from the North Saskatchewan River. That means every time you drink a local beer from Edmonton, you should be thanking the Bighorn for collecting, storing, and cleaning that water for free. And the best way to thank the Bighorn is to help protect it.”
Bent Stick beer, pic by Stephen Legault
“If our headwaters are deforested, mined, and heavily tracked and trailed, then the water we end up drinking starts out in trouble,” says Adam Linnard, Alberta program co-ordinator at Y2Y. “But if we protect our headwaters in a meaningful way, then our water starts off on the right foot, we successfully maintain key habitat for vulnerable species like grizzlies, wolverines and bull trout, and we honour an incredibly beautiful natural and cultural landscape.”
Starting this month, six-pack boxes from Alley Kat Brewing Company will feature Love Your Headwaters labels, while bottles from Bent Stick Brewing have been labelled since July.
Products can be found at both companies’ bottle shops and at liquor stores, bars and restaurants across the province.