Green beer: Not just for St. Patrick’s Day anymore

There is a new buzz in the roadless debate.

Charlie Berger, owner of Denver Beer Co., this week called on Congress to strengthen protections of public lands in light of the U.S. Forest Service’s deliberation of a new state-specific proposal to manage forests and attempts by Republican lawmakers to roll back wilderness and roadless area protections.

“A quarter of Colorado’s headwaters originate in roadless areas,” Berger was quoted saying in the Summit County Voice. “Colorado mountain water is not only good to drink; it’s good for business. Beer is 95 percent water and I cannot maintain a high-quality product without the availability of high quality water.”

The beer maker’s call to action comes as part of Great Outdoors Week, a national celebration currently under way that recognizes the recreational, environmental and economic value of America’s public lands.

Berger’s appeal for stronger environmental oversight echoes that of U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who in a Great Outdoors Week statement noted that “while my constituents and I are working with the Forest Service to keep the best of our backcountry forests protected, some in Congress are pushing on behalf of special interests to take those protections away entirely. Coloradans depend on these areas for our drinking water, our outdoor economy and our cherished way of life, and they must be preserved,” DeGette said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., is co-sponsoring HR 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, that would open vast amounts of terrain to drilling, mining and roadbuilding.

There is also the six years’ of controversy enveloping the Colorado Roadless Rule, which would dictate the management of roughly 4.2 million acres of inventoried roadless areas of federal land throughout Colorado. The latest draft “falls short of the standard existing under the national rule and lacks critical safeguards,” U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo, wrote last month in a letter to the U.S. Forest Service.

Beer and politics are nothing new in Colorado.

Brew baron Pete Coors ran for the U.S. Senate as a moderate conservationist in 2004, despite donating millions of dollars to anti-environmental groups and his own company’s well-chronicled, anti-green foibles. He narrowly lost to Democrat Ken Salazar, who is now secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Then there is also Gov. John Hickenlooper, who founded Wynkoop Brewing Co. in 1988. In fact, Berger was a sales rep at Wynkoop before he launched the Denver Beer Co. this month on Platte Street.

And for those looking to drink for a cause, local craft beers will be on display at the Headwaters Hops Fest in Summit County this Thursday to raise money for the Blue River Watershed Group. Organizers say they want to showcase how Colorado’s brewers can benefit from keeping the region’s streams clean.

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