Austin's boil water order has affected just about every person in the city, but breweries are perhaps among the best equipped to handle it. Boiled water is a necessary, fundamental step in the brewing process, which means they've got it on hand on a regular basis — and this week, with city officials mandating that residents boil their water before consuming it, local breweries are doing their part to help out both people and businesses.
Black Star Co-Op was among the first to announce on social media that it had "fresh boiled water available for the community," a Facebook post that now has more than 1,200 shares. Since then, other local breweries including Infamous, the Brewer's Table, Pinthouse Pizza and Independence have also stepped up.
For Black Star, it was just the right thing to do, as well as easy, given the amount of water that was already available for use.
"Our hot liquor tank is full of 170-degree water, which is the reason it was just so obvious to do this," Andy Martinec, Black Star's head brewer, said. "We had 700 gallons of water that was not even from the potentially contaminated source (because it) had been sitting in here for a week, half of which had been at pasteurization temperature for a week, so it's 100 percent good. It just made sense for us to do this."
He said people have stopped by with water jugs since yesterday, but the cooperative brewpub has also been able to provide water to the Austin Humane Society and to Barrett's Coffee, both nearby. (Animal shelters sent out a call for water donations yesterday.) The five gallons that went to the coffee shop, Martinec said, helped to bring their espresso machine back online.
Other Austin breweries have been supplying coffee shops as well, many of which don't have kitchens to boil water in-house. One of the co-founders of East Austin coffee shop the Brew & Brew, Matt Wright, "started an email thread today with a bunch of of breweries and coffee shops, asking if any breweries would be willing to let coffee shops grab boiled, cooled water off their tanks," he said. "It's been like three hours and already 6 different breweries have helped out or offered to help out."
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In addition to Black Star, Zilker Brewing, the Brewer's Table, Hops & Grain, St. Elmo Brewing and Pinthouse all responded, he said, and among the coffee shops to accept help include the Brew & Brew, Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors and Fleet Coffee.
"We're setting this up for the long haul, in case this thing stretches out for weeks, and it's been a huge relief for me to be able to rely on our neighboring breweries for this help," Wright said.
Plus, Independence Brewing plans to be open until 8 p.m. today to give out boiled water to anyone who wants it. The East Austin brewery doesn't normally have taproom hours on Tuesdays but is making an exception to "give back to the community that has supported them for the past 14 years," according to an email from a publicist. Bring your container to fill up, at a limit of 1 gallon of water per person, while supplies last.
Want to give thanks? There's no better way to do it than by purchasing a beer from the taproom bar.
And if you live west of town, Infamous Brewing, in the Lake Travis area, is also doing its part, by offering people the chance to fill their jugs up with water both during hours brewing staff is there and afterward.
Providing this service to local businesses that need it and to the community at large is a no-brainer to these breweries, according to the Brewer's Table team, which noted it's "amazing how the community supports each other." The Brewer's Table, with a full-scale restaurant, is open business as usual because of the water the kitchen can source from the brewery side. And in South Austin, St. Elmo is offering its water to other local businesses in addition to coffee shops.
Black Star's Martinec has plans to brew tomorrow but said he is willing to push back his schedule by a couple of days if it means providing water to people in need.
"Of course, it makes so much sense to do it; what other industry are you going to have huge tanks of cold, ready-to-drink water? Very few. It just seemed obvious," he said.