Trading booze for water: Colorado brewers halt production to can water for hurricane-ravaged Texas

Big Colorado brewers are pitching in to make access to clean water fall lower on the list of things people affected by devastating flooding in Texas have to worry about.

Oskar Blues Brewery shut down beer production in Longmont Tuesday afternoon, filling 88,800 cans with safe water. Trucks are estimated to arrive in Texas later in the week. Denver-based MillerCoors switched its Revolver brewing lines in Texas to can water. And Anheuser-Busch said it would stop canning beer in Georgia for a week to produce emergency drinking water.

Floods and other natural disasters can damage and contaminate drinking water sources, creating a need for clean water. That’s where the brewers come in.

It only took about four hours to fill 88,800 cans of water, pretreated with nitrogen for stability, at Oskar Blues on Tuesday. Broomfield-based Ball Corp. donated the cans and the brewery’s  the CAN’d Aid Foundation will make sure it reaches the people who need it most.

“Unfortunately we’ve done this enough times that we’ve developed a routine. We’ve gotten pretty good at this,” Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis said.

The brewer has a plant in Austin, Texas, but Melis said the equipment needed to treat the water is in Colorado. The goal is to get water into people’s hands as quickly as possible, he said.

“A lot of employees have loved ones affected and we feel obligated to help,” Melis said. “We’ve sent water to a lot of different places, but this one definitely rings close to home.”

The brewery first became involved in disaster outreach when calamity hit home. The CAN’d Aid Foundation was started by Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis help families rebuild and keep small businesses from closing after devastating floods in Lyons and Longmont in 2013. Since then, the foundation has shipped more than 600,000 cans of safe drinking water to communities including Flint, Mich. and Baton Rogue, La., and now Houston.

Oskar Blues isn’t the only brewery to respond with canned water donations.

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