At the intersection of environmentalism and craft beer is Mill House Brewing Company’s Ship Rocked IPA, a beer made in collaboration with Riverkeeper and Clearwater. The IPA brewed with Hudson River drinking water and cascade hops rested aboard the rocking sloop Clearwater for six weeks, creating a mildly bitter, oaky and caramel flavored beer.
The idea came to Dan Shapley, Water Quality Program Director at Riverkeeper, and Jamie Bishop, brewmaster at Mill House Brewing Company, from different angles. Shapley was interested in new ways to get the public interested in source water protection, and Bishop wanted to create a true IPA—brewed to withstand a long journey on a rocking ship, and fermented in barrels the way it would have been in the 1700s. The wooden barrels were at the mercy of the environment imparting unique flavors onto the Ship Rocked IPA that brewers do not normally get through modern, steel tank fermentation processes.
This is the second year that Mill House has made a Ship Rocked IPA, and Shapley is looking at ways to make the special beer even more available. “Riverkeeper and Mill House are excited to see the project grow, and we’d like to partner with more boats to brew a bigger batch of beer in 2019,” said Shapley. “We’d like to see the beer on tap not only at special tasting events, but at bars and restaurants throughout the valley.”
Water is one of the four main ingredients in beer, which is why source water is important to brewers, too. Bishop considers Hudson River water ideal for brewing because of its mineral content. While well water contains minerals that naturally flavor the water, the surface water provided by the Hudson River and its tributaries provide brewers a clean canvas on which to build a more authentic flavor profile for their beer.
Thanks to initiatives enforced by Riverkeeper, nearly 100,000 Hudson Valley residents, including entire colleges and hospital systems can rely on the Hudson River for clean water. Using beer to highlight the Hudson’s role as a drinking water source is Riverkeeper’s most unique benefit for source water protection. However, this is not Riverkeeper’s only brewery collaboration. During the Riverkeeper Sweep, an early May Hudson River clean-up project, volunteers from 109 different community service groups can receive a beer “on the house” from a partnering brewery. “Beer is an exciting way to connect people to [Riverkeeper’s] mission,” said Shapley.
The amount of breweries in the Hudson Valley make it the “Napa of beer.” Riverkeeper would like to see more breweries participating in watershed protection efforts, as a way to educate consumers about their water sources and how to protect them. “I imagine a day when we have a Source Water 12-pack, with each of 12 breweries contributing a beer that tells the story of its brewery’s source of drinking water.”
There are two more opportunities to try the Ship Rocked IPA. On Sept 12 at 5pm at Mill House Brewing Company try a pint of Ship Rocked while watching National Geographic filmmaker Jon Bowermaster’s new short film, Source to Sea. Mill House will also have a secret keg of Ship Rocked IPA at the Hudson River Craft Beer Festival on September 15 at Riverfront Park in Beacon. “We’re grateful for Mill House for donating proceeds of the project to Riverkeeper,” said Shapley, “but more important than the financial support is the ability to reach a large group of Hudson Valley residents and educate them about the importance of protecting the Hudson River.”