A “beer summit” was staged at the statehouse today to make the case that Iowa needs to raise more money for water quality initiatives.
“Every beer that we do has 90 to 93 percent water in its base. Water is in the name of a lot of the beers that we make,” says Ken Broadhead, cofounder of the Confluence Brewing Company in Des Moines. “…Everything we do is based around water, so water quality is very important to us.”
Broadhead’s brewery is situated near the intersection or “confluence” of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers. The brewery filters its water, to remove nitrates.
“You’ve got to have pure, clean water for the brewing industry and we have 75 brewing facilities here in Iowa, in all shapes and sizes,” Broadhead said. “If you imagine the amount of beer that’s been pumped out here in the state of Iowa…that’s a huge thing, so it’s very important for us to have clean water.”
Broadhead said beer, especially lagers, can be ruined it the water isn’t right. Broadhead is part of a coalition that’s pushing legislators to raise the state sales tax 3/8 of a percent, to provide a “steady stream” of money for water quality projects.
Mark Doll is president and CEO of Doll Distributing, a company that delivers beer to 3,500 retailers in 40 Iowa counties. He joined Broadhead for a discussion held during “Fund the Trust” Day at the capitol.
“Water is the most important thing to brewing,” Doll said. “If we have great water, we have great beers.”
Rick Young, a city councilman in Jewell who was also part of the featured mid-day discussion, said a three-mile bike trail that links his town with the community of Ellsworth and the Granite City Brewery there has sparked an economic revival.
“We now have more retail demand for retail space than what we have available in our town of 1,200 people,” Young said. “That has not happened in 40 or 50 years.”
Young supports the sales tax increase to fill the empty fund Iowa voters created in 2010 and finance both water quality and outdoor recreation projects like bike trails.
“This is not the state of Des Moines. This is not the state of Polk County,” Young said. “This is the State of Iowa and we deserve our change to have our trails there, too.”
Bills that would raise the sales tax have been introduced in the legislature but have not advanced in either the House or Senate. Republican Governor Terry Branstad has repeatedly said he’s not interested in approving a sales tax increase and he doesn’t think Iowa voters are either.