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Calgary breweries adapt to water restrictions

Brewsmith Brewing Company has already pushed back its opening day once, now targeting early August to be the first brewery in Calgary’s northwest.

“We’ve been aiming for this place since the beginning,” says owner Bob Mitchell. “If we’re opening a brewery it has to be in Bowness, there’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.”

The brewery is located on Bowness Road, blocks from the original location of the critical water feeder main break along 16th Avenue. While the break has only caused slight delays for the construction schedule, the need for water is nearing, with a repair still weeks away.

“If it’s three weeks, great, if it’s five…,” says Mitchell. “Our tanks are ready to be prepped, we’ll need water soon.”

Head brewer Colin Baldner is ready to meter the tanks, a process that is needed to prove capacity to the provincial government but is holding off for now, until water isn’t in high demand.

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“I need 1,200 litres of water to meter all of these tanks,” Baldner explains. “The problem we have right now is I have no use for the water afterwards so we’re kind of delaying things until the situation is less critical.”

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Baldner needs about three weeks to brew beer for opening day. He has a plan to collect the water and donate it back to the community as non-treated water if the restrictions put his timeline into jeopardy.

Across town, Annex Ale Project scaled back production by 30 per cent when the water main first broke and has a plan for the coming weeks.

“We can dig into our inventory if we need and catch up once this water feeder is fixed,” says Andrew Bullied, co-founder of Annex.

“We’ll just have to brew a little bit harder when we get out of this jam.”

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Annex has found a variety of water saving techniques in the past two weeks and is helping other breweries do the same. It has compiled a list of best practices that is being distributed through the Alberta Small Brewers Association.

The hope is the industry might be able to find more water conservation measures even after city water is restored.

“It was really easy for us to start realizing there’s a lot of water that just goes down the drain that we can collect and actually use in different parts of the process that are not essential,” says Bullied.

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