Widmer Brothers: Leaders in water-wise brewing

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A bartender wearing a black Widmer Brothers cap and black shirt pours a blonde, frothy beer from a tap into a tall glass.
Widmer Brothers Brewing is a national leader in efficient use of water resources in brewing. Widmer uses around 3.77 gallons of water per gallon of beer brewed, while other breweries of Widmer’s size typically use five to six gallons.
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From 2013 to 2017, on and off, the Portland Water Bureau worked with Widmer to review their facility’s water use, conducting an on-site survey to identify potential water-saving opportunities and installing temporary flow recorders to measure equipment water use. This work resulted in a collaboration on upgrades to their water-based vacuum and bottle rinsing systems that saved roughly 5,000 gallons of water per day. In 2017, we interviewed the Widmer Brothers’ sustainability manager about their exceptional water efficiency commitments. That interview is so informative we wanted to share it again.

2017 interview of Widmer Brother’s Sustainability Manager

Founded in 1984, Widmer Brothers Brewery helped pioneer the Pacific Northwest beer movement and today is one of Oregon’s largest breweries. So, it makes sense that Widmer’s pioneering spirit goes beyond making great-tasting beer and includes being a responsible steward of Portland’s natural resources.

Starting in 2013, Widmer Brothers Brewery in North Portland partnered with our Water Efficiency Program to look for ways to save water.

Our water efficiency experts, Jeff Sandberg and Kevin Murray, help local businesses investigate increased water usage, find inefficient or malfunctioning equipment, and help improve existing water use methods and processes.

To learn how our water efficiency program was able to help Widmer find sustainable and water-smart ways to brew their beer, we sat down with Julia Person, Corporate Sustainability Manager at Widmer Brothers Brewery.

Water Bureau (WB): Hi, Julia. Thanks so much for meeting with us today to talk about Widmer’s experience with our water efficiency program. I guess the first question is how did you find out about the bureau’s water efficiency support services?

Julia Person (JP): We first reached out directly to the Water Bureau to inquire about getting real-time usage data on our water meters. We were then introduced to the water efficiency program and were able to undertake a comprehensive water audit of our bottling facility and restaurant in North Portland with their help.

WB: Can you tell us about your experience with the water efficiency program? How did the process work?

JP: Brewing is a water-intense process, so I was interested in working with the Water Bureau to help us find savings with some of our bigger water-using equipment. The first step was to dig into data analysis with usage data on all our meters. Internally, as we are considering a capital improvement project, we can include the BIG rebate savings and improve the viability of potential projects. 

White text on a blue background with the Water Bureau logo in the bottom right corner. Text reads: "Through working with the excellent water efficiency experts at the Water Bureau, our brewery was not only able to find small savings opportunities and streamline our water usage tracking, but also learn about the rebate program to help us move along bigger efficiency projects." Julia Person, Corporate Sustainability Manager, Widmer Brothers Brewing.

WB: What were the results of the implemented efficiency improvements?

JP: We’re already well below the benchmark for water usage compared to other breweries of our size, using 3.77 gallons of water per gallon of beer with a goal to use 3.50, while the typical usage is five to six gallons. Investments in water efficiency projects help us do even more. We are currently working on installing a new piece of water efficient bottling equipment that will pay for itself in less than two years, with around $35,000 savings in water annually as well as $3,500 savings in energy.

WB: Are there any other efficiencies that resulted from working with the water efficiency program?

JP: One of the biggest benefits was getting access to monitoring tools that help us pinpoint areas for improvement. For example, we wanted to understand the impact of our external bottle washer, and Jeff and Kevin were able to come out and do real-time logging of our water usage. This allowed us to determine our actual flow rate and dial back our gallons per minute being used.

WB: I’m curious, what would you say to another business that is thinking about working with the water efficiency program?

JP: It’s an excellent program with very knowledgeable efficiency experts that enjoy helping businesses improve.

WB: Thank you so much for meeting with me today, Julia! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

JP: It’s my pleasure! I’d add that Widmer Brothers appreciates being able to partner with the Water Bureau to improve our operations, helping us to make beer in a more sustainable manner!

Learn more about the water efficiency program

Interested in learning how the water efficiency program can help your business save water and money? Visit our Commercial water efficiency page for more information, commercial water savings tips, and contact details.