Com­pe­ti­tion: Make beer with Bos­ton river wa­ter

Mak­ing beer with Bos­ton river wa­ter

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Philip Marcelo

BOS­TON » Who wants to drink that dirty wa­ter?

Some of New Eng­land’s lead­ing brew­eries will com­pete Oct. 1 to see who can turn the ques­tion­able wa­ter of Bos­ton’s Charles River into the tasti­est suds.

Six area brew­eries have signed on for the first-ever “Brew the Charles” chal­lenge, a high­light of HUBweek, a week­long Bos­ton-area fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing in­no­va­tion in art, sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy.

Na­dav Efraty, CEO of De­salitech, a Mas­sachusetts wa­ter treat­ment com­pany that’s spon­sor­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, hopes it helps spot­light the im­por­tance of wa­ter con­ser­va­tion and wa­ter-sav­ing tech­nolo­gies.

“We’re hav­ing fun here, but at the end of the day, we want to ed­u­cate the pub­lic and de­ci­sion­mak­ers,” he said. “We’re all ef­fi­cient with our en­ergy be­cause we know it has en­vi­ron­men­tal and fi­nan­cial costs. We need to think ex­actly the same way about wa­ter.”

The river, which winds through 23 Mas­sachusetts com­mu­ni­ties be­fore end­ing in Bos­ton Har­bor, has come a long way since it gained no­to­ri­ety in “Dirty Wa­ter,” the Standells’ 1960s hit and one of Bos­ton’s adopted theme songs.

Up­grades to waste­water treat­ment plants over the decades now pre­vent raw sewage from be­ing dumped di­rectly into the river, and en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tors have cracked down on im­proper sewer con­nec­tions.

The U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency gave the Charles a B+ for meet­ing wa­ter qual­ity stan­dards for al­most all boating and some swim­ming in its most re­cent an­nual re­port card.

There’s even a move­ment to build a per­ma­nent swim­ming fa­cil­ity in the river. A por­tion of the pro­ceeds from “Brew the Charles” will go to­ward that ef­fort.

De­salitech pulled about 4,000 gal­lons of wa­ter from the river and treated it in one of its re­verse os­mo­sis sys­tems.

The wa­ter ar­rived last month at Bos­ton Beer Co. (the mak­ers of Sa­muel Adams), Cape Ann Brew­ing Co., Castle Is­land Brew­ing Co., Har­poon Brew­ery, Idle Hands Craft Ales and Ip­swich Ale Brew­ery.

Jen­nifer Glanville, the brewer at Sam Adams, said it is brew­ing a German “helles” lager that she be­lieves will “show­case” the wa­ter’s unique char­ac­ter. They’re call­ing it “80 Miles of Helles,” after the 80-mile length of the Charles River.

Adam Ro­manow, founder of Castle Is­land Brew­ing, said his team went with a dry hopped cream ale in hopes that it will also “let the wa­ter shine through.” The Nor­wood, Mass., brew­ery is call­ing their con­coc­tion “Chuck.”

“With this style, there’s not much to hide be­hind,” Ro­manow ex­plained. “It’s a tra­di­tion­ally lighter, lower-al­co­hol, classic Amer­i­can style that has been around for eons but gen­er­ally gets a bad rep de­spite be­ing ab­so­lutely amaz­ing — kind of like the Charles it­self.”

Alexan­dra Ash, a spokes­woman for the Charles River Wa­ter­shed As­so­ci­a­tion, which has worked for decades to im­prove the river’s health, ap­plauded the spirit of the com­pe­ti­tion but cau­tioned that it’s still not al­ways safe to swim in the Charles, let alone drink from it un­treated.

The as­so­ci­a­tion this month found high lev­els of cyanobac­te­ria, a blue-green al­gae that can ir­ri­tate the ears, nose and throat and sicken those who drink or swim in it.

“We still have a bit more work to do un­til that’s a pos­si­bil­ity,” Ash said of drink­ing river wa­ter. “But what’s cool about this com­pe­ti­tion is that it shows off an­other great as­pect of greater Bos­ton — our lo­cal wa­ter in­no­va­tion and ex­per­tise.”

Brew­ers at Sam Adams and Castle Is­land Brew­ing re­port the De­salitech-treated wa­ter was high qual­ity. They used it as they would have any other wa­ter source — no ad­di­tional steps or spe­cial treat­ments needed.

“We’ve had tons of peo­ple ask us if it’s safe to drink, if it will make them glow and so on,” Ro­manow said. “But I en­joyed one and I’m not glow­ing. So I think it’s safe to say that not only can you drink this beer, but you’re go­ing to want to.”

CHARLES KRUPA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A glass of Castle Is­land Brew­ing Com­pany “Chuck” beer, a dry hopped cream ale, rests on a rock along the bank of the Charles River, Thurs­day in Cam­bridge, Mass. Lead­ing New Eng­land brew­eries are com­pet­ing to see who can turn the ques­tion­able wa­ter of Bos­ton’s Charles River into the tasti­est suds.

CHARLES KRUPA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mas­ter brewer Bob Can­non, of the Sa­muel Adams Bos­ton Brew­ery, pours a pitcher of their “80-Miles of Helles” beer, which is made us­ing wa­ter from Bos­ton’s Charles River, Thurs­day in Bos­ton. Lead­ing New Eng­land brew­eries are com­pet­ing to see who can turn the ques­tion­able wa­ter of Bos­ton’s Charles River into the tasti­est suds.

A glass of Sa­muel Adams Bos­ton Beer Com­pany “80-Miles of Helles” beer, left, and a glass of Castle Is­land Brew­ing Com­pany “Chuck” dry hopped cream ale rest on a rock along the bank of the Charles River.

Mas­ter brewer Bob Can­non, of the Sa­muel Adams Bos­ton Brew­ery, tastes a sam­ple of their “80-Miles of Helles” beer, which is made us­ing wa­ter from Bos­ton’s Charles River

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