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Deal With Local Brewer Helps Sonoma County Town Get Through Drought

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Racer 5 IPA from Bear Republic Brewing Company of Cloverdale. (CBS)

Racer 5 IPA from Bear Republic Brewing Company of Cloverdale. (CBS)

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CLOVERDALE (KPIX 5) – California’s drought emergency has people looking for all kinds of solutions. A town in the North Bay is getting some help, thanks to beer.

This is the story of Cloverdale, a small town that cut a deal with the local brewery. But when they shook hands, no one had any idea just how good a deal it would turn out to be.

Before you can enjoy a Racer 5 from the Bear Republic Brewing Company, you’ll need a few things. Some malted barley, along with plenty of hops since it’s an IPA. Above all, you’re going to need plenty of water.

“The ratio generally speaking in the industry is about six to seven gallons of water to produce one gallon of beer,” Richard R. Norgrove, President and CEO of Bear Republic Brewing Company told KPIX 5.

A little more than a year ago, Bear Republic wanted to expand this operation. When they went to City Hall, Norgrove said, “We were told we couldn’t get the conditional use permit.”

That’s because Cloverdale simply couldn’t provide the infrastructure. “That infrastructure turned out to be water,” Norgrove said.

“Water is gold, yes,” said Robert Cox, Vice Mayor of Cloverdale. “There’s only so much.”

Cloverdale’s water comes almost exclusively from Lake Mendocino and the Russian River, a system in danger of becoming a postcard for the California drought.

“We asked the city, what’s it going to take to get more water? They said, we need more wells,” Norgrove said.

So, Bear Republic wrote a check for nearly half a million dollars.

“They’re just paying it forward in advance, allowing the city to do the expansion,” Cox said.

The brewery also started recycling its wastewater, to cut back its overall use. “We’re only using three and a half gallons of water for every gallon of beer,” Norgrove said.

“They’re a good neighbor, yeah,” Cox said.

So, the beer keeps flowing, and the town gets two new wells. It’s a win-win deal, just in time for the drought.

“It’s a good thing that we did. Had we not done that, I think not only would Bear Republic, but the city itself be in much, much drier straits,” Norgrove said.

Those two additional wells fronted by the brewery really could mean the difference between having a water supply, and running out.

The plan was to start pumping in July, but if the lake and river are too dry, it may not be possible. On the other hand, if the area gets some rain, the city said they’re about ready to go.

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