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By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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Best for Homebrew: Bay Area Hetch Hetchy Water Is a Winner!

Uploaded: Nov 7, 2023

Have you checked out newly opened Springline in Menlo Park yet? The complex hosts many creative restaurants and cafes worth a look-see.

Robin doesn’t use menus – tell them your likes and dislikes and they’ll curate a meal to your taste.

Andytown has a sparkling espresso + real whipped cream that’s truly an unexpected taste sensation.

For a Roasted Eggplant Wrap that is wowie delicious, and other super fresh food – stop by Proper Food.

And for a casual, fun, hangout - check out the comfortable and cozy indoor and outdoor seating at Barebottle Brew Co – the perfect place to catch up with family and friends this holiday.

The day we visited, guests could choose from 16 beers, 5 sours (beer from fruit, not grain) 3 homemade wines, nonalcoholic homemade kombucha, ginger hibiscus Koga Kola, and sparkling hop water, and even a beer “slushie” crowned with chili lime salt. New styles are introduced weekly.

There’s absolutely something for everyone, even the kids who are invited to play with the in house games and old fashioned pinball machines.

My companion chose Hella Hetchy (4% ABV). Light and bright, but it’s the story that draws you in.

Beer is all about the water and the Bay Area has the best in the country, maybe the world, says co-head brewer, ‘Magic’ John Montes De Oca. That’s because it comes from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite.

Water components such as salts, enzymes and pH stabilizers are often added or subtracted from brewing water. Barebottle Co-Founder Michael Seitz; There’s only a handful of places on Earth with naturally occurring soft water which can be used as-is for brewing. Hetch Hetchy water is a phenomenal canvas - we are extremely fortunate to have it as our water source. Depending on the style of beer, we might add minerals, and we do remove chloramine [added to municipal water for safety with a charcoal filter, but we don't strip the water in any way like other brewers have to.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is fed by the Tuolumne River, which originates high in the eastern mountains of Yosemite National Park. A main contributor to northern California’s watershed, this water system is often in the news; a concern for residents, business, farming and environmental communities. The entire Bay Area is affected by the health, or lack thereof, of the Tuolumne River. And we all benefit from the clean taste, unique to our region.

- courtesy of Tuolumne River Trust website

Originally from the Detroit area, and after that LA, I wasn’t exposed to fresh-tasting water until moving to the Bay Area 30 years ago. I’ve come to really appreciate the flavor and reputation of Hetch Hetchy water, but never groked until this evening how the water could effect food and drink producers, or brewers of our region.

So how important is the Tuolumne River to Bay Area beer making? Coincidently, I brought the perfect guest along to help gravity sink in -Peter Drekmeier, Palo Alto resident, former mayor and Policy Director for Tuolumne River Trust (TRT), a nonprofit 501c3 protecting and restoring our watershed (Sierra Nevada Mountains and Hetch Hetchy reservoir through the Central Valley to San Francisco Bay).

Between sips of my favorite choice,

Dessert on Lock (raspberry nitro stout 5.5 ABV with hints of oat, milk sugar and scotch), I couldn’t help but ask.…

Pete - how do we preserve the Tuolumne River for future beers?

Peter: People think that conserving water is the best thing they can do to protect our rivers, but it’s not always the case. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) hoards the water we conserve during droughts in their reservoirs (Hetch Hetchy being the best known), and then is forced to release the water in a single year once the reservoirs fill. The result is the Tuolumne experiences one very good year at the expense of several terrible years, effecting habitat, salmon flows and river health.

The best thing people can do is to encourage their elected representatives to support the ongoing effort to increase flows and distribute releases from dams more evenly. Contact your official and say you support the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan. We encourage everyone to learn more about it and advocate for a healthier watershed in Northern California.

Beer Lovers – this one IS for you. Speak up for Bay Area homebrew and contact your rep today.

Advice from a River (Ilan Shamir)

Go with the flow.

Stay current.

- photos by LSIC unless noted
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Felicia Wynn, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Nov 7, 2023 at 9:52 am

Felicia Wynn is a registered user.

If Hetch-Hetchy (aka tap) water is so outstanding, I am curious why there aren't more micro-breweries between Menlo Park and Yosemite drawing on the same concept.

Isn't Crystal Springs a local reservoir for Hetch-Hetchy water?

The next beer water gimmick will probably be something along the lines of using upstream snow-melt Truckee River water or perhaps a source from Mendocino County.

Then again, the trademark slogan of the Olympia Brewing Company in Tumwater, WA was "It's the water" and St. Paul, MN-based Hamm's was "From the land of sky-blue waters" and Coors still uses a similar derivative, "Made from pure Rocky Mountain spring water."

Citing the water source is just a recycled ad theme.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Nov 7, 2023 at 7:05 pm

Donald is a registered user.

Hetch Hetchy is operated by the City of San Francisco. Some communities outside of SF have agreements that provide them with this water, others don't. Palo Alto is fortunate to have Hetch Hetchy water, but many of it neighbors are not so fortunate. I am sure there are many breweries between Menlo Park and Yosemite who would love to have access to Hetch Hetchy water but are unable to do so. Like most water issues in California, it is very complicated.

As far as the specifics of brewing, a soft water like that from Hetch Hetchy is a blank canvas from which you can build up any mineral profile you want. Taken straight from the tap it is good for Pilsners, but not the best choice for other styles. It is easy to add what you want for those other styles, though.

Posted by Patricia Becker, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Nov 8, 2023 at 8:51 am

Patricia Becker is a registered user.

Thanks Laura for letting us know what is happening the new Springtime in Menlo Park. I look forward to going there to explore. Your freind and fan, Patricia Becker

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