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Posted on Wed, Aug 10, 2011 : 3:27 p.m.

Good, clean fun: Ann Arbor breweries celebrate local water quality

By David Bardallis


BREWIN' ON THE RIVER: From the left are pictured Oliver Roberts (Wolverine), Duncan Williams (Grizzly Peak), Ron Jeffries (Jolly Pumpkin), Tim Schmidt (Blue Tractor), Dannyboy Peron (Corner Brewery), Bill Gerds (Arbor Brewing).

Photo courtesy of the Huron River Watershed Council


Lately I've taken to watching all these nerdy space shows on Discovery, National Geographic, the Science Channel, and so on — everything from the origin of the universe to the nature of time to the formation of the Earth. One such show posited that at least some of our planet's water originally came here via comets and asteroids and stuff. Far out, man.

Wherever all that wonderful life-giving stuff came from, it's no secret we're blessed here in Michigan with a lot of it, and we're further blessed here in the Ann Arbor area to have such a clean source, the Huron River. And clean, pure water is essential for yet another of our blessings: fresh, tasty, local beer. (Water, in fact, comprises as much as 98 percent of beer. Or 100 percent in the case of Coors Light.)

It makes a lot of sense, then, that Ann Arbor's breweries have joined with the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) for "Brew for the River," a series of beer-related fundraising events beginning this Thursday and continuing every Thursday until HRWC's annual "Suds on the River" bash on Sept. 15. Proceeds from all the events go to help the HRWC in its work of preservation and education.

"We've been involved in Suds on the River since it first began four or five years ago," said Duncan Williams, head brewer at Grizzly Peak Brewing Co. "Water quality is very important for beer, so brewers teaming up with HRWC was a natural fit."

Those brewers and breweries include Williams, Oliver Roberts of Wolverine State Brewing Co., Ron Jeffries of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Bill Gerds of Arbor Brewing Co. and Tim Schmidt of Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery.

"Great beer, safe drinking water, and amazing recreational opportunities are just a few of the many benefits of living on and getting our water from the cleanest urban river in Michigan," said Rene Greff, co-owner of Arbor and Ypsilanti's Corner Brewery. "Most of the credit for this fact is owed to the efforts of the HRWC over the past five decades, and we've been happy to be participating sponsors since the first Suds."

Williams concurs with Greff's assessment, noting "Because of the HRWC, the watershed is in much better shape than it was 10 or 15 years ago." To honor the occasion, he's created Watershed Ale, a beer brewed with bee balm, yarrow and other herbs that are indigenous to our area. Other special beers include Arbor's Blackberry Blonde, Jolly Pumpkin's Hummocky Lick Sumac Sensation and Blue Tractor's Huron River Celebration.

The kickoff event takes place tomorrow evening at the Wolverine tap room, 2019 W. Stadium, beginning with a free pizza buffet at 5 p.m. and including live music from local faves Dragon Wagon and beer specials all night long.

If you go, be sure to pick up your "Brew Passport," which will, when stamped at all subsequent "Brew for the River" events, make you eligible to win a great prize: free beer. That's right, you'll be entitled to two free growler fills from each of the five breweries. Second prize is line-jumping all Jolly Pumpkin special beer releases for a year. The drawing take place Sept. 8 at Blue Tractor.

For the full schedule of events, visit the HRWC website. And if you're interested in getting tickets for the Sept. 15 "Suds on the River" bash, see here.

David Bardallis is a freelance writer and editor, blogger, bon vivant and man about town. Visit “All the Brews Fit to Pint” at, follow @allthebrews on Twitter, or join the "All the Brews Fit to Pint" Facebook page. Email your beer-related thoughts to


Rork Kuick

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

That doesn't look like the Barton impoundment behind the brewers in the picture. In fact I'm not sure where it is. Thank to HRWC and its people for all the efforts, and thinking long term. The water from my neighborhood goes in that beer, and in your tap water, so we all gotta try to take good care about what ends up in that water, and controlling runoff. There's several million people and countless other organisms downstream of our fair city too. They don't vote here, but they matter. Selfish local thinking gets you results like Chesapeake Bay - barely a crumb of what I knew in my youth, and what I knew was just a slice of the original loaf. *weeping*


Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 2:13 a.m.

It's fantastic that the Corner Brewery is involved in this, but just for the record, if they're brewing in Ypsi wouldn't they be getting their water supply from the Detroit River?

David Bardallis

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

I think Corner is involved only indirectly, via Matt and Rene Greff's ownership of both it and Arbor Brewing.

Rork Kuick

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

Ypsi tap water may originate from Detroit River: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Sofia Toti

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 12:19 a.m.

I remember that when we lived in Boulder we considered that Coors tasted as tho someone had left a used beer glass on the counter &amp; someone else came along, refilled the glass, &amp; servved it as Coors.


Wed, Aug 10, 2011 : 10:28 p.m.

Haha, agreed, David. Both Davids, actually.

David Briegel

Wed, Aug 10, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

What a wonderful group of people and what a great contribution they make to the improvement of our daily lives! They take water from the &quot;urine river&quot; and re-cycle it in the best fashion possible. Seriously, I am as thankful to the HRWC for their improvement to our quality of life as I am to these guys for accomplishing incredible quality improvements! The reference to the swill that passes for most American beer is hilarious and justly deserved. 100% Indeed!!