Area breweries step up to help keep the caffeine flowing

By Tim Nelson
October 24, 2018
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It’s been uncharacteristically rainy in Austin as of late. And while one would think that any rainfall in the area around Texas’ capital isn’t a bad thing, the lakes that supply the city with its clean water are currently choked with mud and debris. With more muddy water flowing in than the city can handle, area residents and businesses have now been forced to boil any potential drinking water for a third straight day.

That’s made life difficult for area restaurants and coffee shops who have had to either close, cut down their menu, or get creative. For example, Austin area Starbucks locations have decided to remain open, though the lack of easy access to potable water has forced the chain to stop serving coffee and espresso entirely. Local outlet Bennu Coffee tweeted on Monday that the boil order meant they’d be open until they ran out of cold brew. Other area outlets have had to trim hours.

In some more fortunate cases, teamwork between area breweries and coffee shops has made the task of operating during the boil order a bit more bearable. Thanks to an email chain started by Brew & Brew co-founder Matt Wright, area beermakers have repurposed their big brew kettles to boil water for distribution in the area. Because they can create hundreds of gallons of drinkable water at once, places like Brewer’s Table have been able hook up local coffee shops like Figure 8 access to enough gallons of clean water to stay operational until the situation returns to normal.

Switching from brewing beer to boiling water comes at a certain opportunity cost, but those who’ve stepped up seem happy to help out other members of their interconnected community. “We’re in the business of boiling water and being a good neighbor,” Blue Owl Brewing’s owner Jeff Young told Eater.

While it’s never good news when a city’s residents are forced to boil water, Austin Water officials only expect the boil order to last a “handful of days”. The situation was caused by an unusually high level of sediment and debris in excess of what they city’s water treatment facilities are equipped to handle. Though there’s rain in the forecast today (October 24th), sunnier skies over the next week should hopefully provide a window of opportunity to get the situation back under control.

With shifting weather conditions and climate change increasing the likelihood of similar situations in the future, we can probably expect these sorts of water shortages and setbacks to become less rare than we’d like. But it’s good to know that even in these atomizing times, the people who help keep Austin weird can team up to keep the water—and coffee—flowing as well.