Breweries pitch in with fresh water

No one asked them to do it. They just did it.

Last week, as fresh drinking water became a scarce commodity in Williamson County, craft beer brewers emptied their tanks of fresh water into buckets and jugs, giving that water away to anyone who needed it.

“Really, it was the only thing we could do,” said Ryan Anglen at Whitestone Brewery in Cedar Park. 

After he and his team nursed the brewery’s plumbing during the worst of the storm, its impact began to dawn on Anglen and his team.

“As we were sitting in the brewery, I decided that we would fill every jug we have and give it away,” he said. “We’re on Cedar Park water and that meant I could keep refilling and passing out water as long as people need it.”

Anglin began his water distribution efforts on Thursday, after electric power was restored.

Over in Taylor, the Texas Beer Company began on Tuesday after power to that city’s water treatment plant went out.

“We had water in the tank and thought we might as well mobilize it,” said Ian Davis. “When the water went out in town, it didn’t seem like there were a lot of options out there.”

Anglen and his staff manned the water filling station.

“We refilled our tank three times,” he said. “We’ve given away 3,500-4,000 gallons of fresh water.”

In Taylor, where customers had only a trickle of water on Friday, Texas Beer brought in community volunteers and laid on a bigger operation.

“We had hoped that the community would rally but you don’t know,” Davis said. “We took a big bet. We began a large operation that had to scale up quickly. Everybody totally stepped up to the point we had to turn volunteers away.”

By Monday, the Texas Beer Co. had distributed more than 10,000 gallons of fresh water.

“We began with the 3,000 gallons in the tank and made it to the weekend,” said Davis. “This weekend, the city and the county stepped up and we were able to refill the tanks and keep filling everyone’s water jugs.”

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell, who mobilized several water filling stations around the county, said he got in touch with the Taylor brewer, and Rentch Brewery in Georgetown,on Friday. He asked if they could convert their canning operations from canning beer to canning fresh water. The effort was part of WilCo’s Fresh Water Brigade which began late Friday night. The effort saw county employees locate water tanks, trucks and water sources and launched bulk distribution at sites around the county.

Both breweries responded. Rentch canned 10,000 cans of fresh water. By Monday, Texas Beer Co. canned more than 25,000 cans of water for distribution.

“The last [few] days have been kind of a blur,” said Anglen of Whitestone Brewery. “For us, it was eye opening. We saw ranchers to low income folks … the stories we heard were really, really sad. When we left at the end of the day, my wife and I would recount them and cry uncontrollably.”

“That’s the biggest thing I learned is how valuable water really is,” said Davis. “As cliche as that sounds, to me, that was eye-opening.”

Davis attributed the way local brewers responded to the way this kind of business operates.

“Because of what we do, local craft brewers are naturally connected to the community,” he said. We work, live and eat here. When there’s a need in the community we feel it and see it, and want to do something about it.”

Davis and Anglen said that, regardless of how long local governments maintain public water distribution efforts, they will continue giving away water until it’s no longer needed.

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