What's the most important ingredient? Water.

By: Tarun Sinha

 Tarun Sinha

Tarun Sinha

“Drink beer and save lives. really.”, is the first poster I saw when I entered Lickinghole’s latest addition to its family.  The downtown location, neighboring the 17th street Farmers Market, is slated to open by the end of the year. And within its new walls are signs of its local and international water footprint efforts.  I was surprised to learn of Lickinghole Creek Brewery’s water initiatives, since I only knew that they brewed awesome beers and were located on a picturesque farm.  Little did I know that since its conception back in 2013, it has been on the forefront of water treatment and consciousness for farm breweries.

Back in 2013 I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of Lickinghole Creek Brewery.  The craft beer scene was on the verge of booming in Richmond, and this was my first trip to a farm brewery.  The brewery was situated on a hill surrounded by rolling fields, in a white building, reminiscent of a functioning barn. I distinctly remember the Short Pump Saison Farmhouse Ale; the initial sip was a little fruity followed by a peppery aftertaste; it was so crisp that it balanced out the hops perfectly.  I remember asking an employee what the most important ingredient to this beer was, and distinctly remember the answer, “water”.

 courtesy of LCCB

courtesy of LCCB

Water consciousness has skyrocketed in the time I started exploring the world of beer, for the better. In the past 4 years, I’ve visited countless breweries across the country, from San Diego to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and even have brewed a few batched with friends.  What I learned is how critical water is for the flavor of the beer.  Before 2013, I didn’t wonder where breweries collected their water from, or what they did with the vast amounts of waste water that was produced after the brewing process. I had the pleasure of talking with Adam Stockton and Jimmy Walsh from Lickinghole Creek Brewery at their soon to be downtown location. LCCB has 2 well-sites on its property in order to use the freshest water possible for their delicious beers.  This water, residing in naturally occurring deep wells under their 290 acres of land, requires minimal treatments before it is used for brewing. In Virginia, LCCB was the first farm brewery to be this water conscious, by utilizing the water they had on their own property, as well as treating the waste water to be re-used on the farm.  With the brewery residing on a picturesque farm, the waste water is carefully treated in order to remove any remnants of yeast, hops and grains it may contain after the brewing process.  This filtered water is then used to water the hops, grains and various vegetables that are grown on the farm.  The filtered water that isn’t absorbed by the vegetation eventually trickles back down into the deep wells from which the water was initially pumped from.  This process leaves a minimal water footprint, since the water on the property is continuously recycled.  LCCB spearheaded this process shortly after 2013, and now has become one of the industry leads in water conscious practices, inside and outside of the country.

 courtesy of LCCB

courtesy of LCCB

LCCB has been generous in giving back to community since Lisa Pumphrey co-founded the brewery in 2013.  The brewery has raised money for various communities and issues across Richmond, and are about to begin a new endeavor in Nine Mile, Jamaica.  You may have heard of this town since it was home to the legendary Bob Marley, but what you may not have known is its connection to Lisa and LCCB family.  To summarize this relationship, Lisa’s family business has been connected to the people near Nine Mile, dating back to the mid to early 20th century.  Her family has been involved in developing infrastructure, schools and hospitals in conjunction with the Marley family inside and outside of Nine Mile. What is still surprising is the lack of water resources outside of Kingston, Jamaica.  Nine Mile is home to a legend, but the community in this area is still lacking a safe and effective water treatment facility.  It currently consists of a monstrous cement funnel which collects rainwater into a reservoir, from which families must walk to and carry gallons of water by hand back home. Often it is the younger family members that are tasked with this daily trek.  Along with rainwater, contaminants such a debris, bacteria, animals and dirt are also collected by the funnel and permanently enter the water system in Nine Mile.  The cost of developing a water treatment facility is extremely high, however, LCCB is introducing their deep water well system to the Nine Mile community. LCCB is funding and constructing deep wells, like the wells located on its property in Goochland, near Nine Mile, providing families access to clean and filtered water.  Because of these wells, LCCB is also taking an initiative to teach the communities how to brew beer, with the end goal of creating a self-sustaining business in Nine Mile.

 courtesy of LCCB

courtesy of LCCB

I am very excited to see the results of this project, and LCCB has many more projects in the pipeline involving Nine Mile and water conservation initiatives. Virginia Craft Brews Publication will certainly follow up on this endeavor.  In the meantime, I will support their efforts by being a loyal patron to LCCB, but more importantly, I will take more of an interest in water conservation and educating myself on its importance.  There are numerous ways to be involved in such projects, and I am glad I had the opportunity to learn more about them from Lickinghole Creek Brewery.

 courtesy of LCCB

courtesy of LCCB

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