Lake Erie, the fourth-largest of the five Great Lakes in North America, is famous for all the wrong reasons. Every so often, when the weather’s just right and there’s enough pollution around, the lake “glows” a ghostly green color due to harmful algal blooms. This is a big problem, not just for the local fish, but for the local brewers who need good quality water to make good quality beer.
One Ohio-based brewery is hoping to highlight the Great Lake's woes with limited batches of a murky green beer called “The Creature from the Algae Bloom”. Thankfully, it’s not actually made with algae from Erie. The 7.2 percent Sour Double IPA is a brewed with Matcha tea power and kiwi to give it that vibrant, if not slightly worrying, green coloring.
“We’re going to keep doing this until the algae bloom isn’t there anymore,” brewery manager Craig Kerr recently told The Associated Press. “The goal is to never make this beer again.”
This isn’t the first time brewers has pushed to clean up Lake Erie. A number of local brewers teamed up to lobby against the repeal of an Obama-era clean water rule, which could have potentially made it easier to pollute the lake’s small tributaries and rivers.
Politics and beer can be a dangerous combination, however. As AP reports, a different brewer from the area ran into trouble three years ago after they gave money to an environmental group for a clean water project. It turned out, that group had also been involved in an unrelated court case that threatened to shut down a local coal mine. This led a handful of bars and restaurants to boycott the beer.
Nevertheless, clean water in Lake Erie is a worthy cause, not just for brewers.
The algal blooms are exacerbated by a process known as eutrophication. Phosphorus and other chemical nutrients from fertilizers seep into the lake and cause Microcystis, a type of freshwater cyanobacteria, to have a feeding frenzy. In a very short time, the green algae can swamp a lake.
It might look pretty from the skies, but these phytoplanktons produces toxins that can contaminate drinking water and pose a risk to human and animal health, including irritation to the skin and respiratory distress. The process of eutrophication can also starve the lakes of oxygen, causing fish and other marine life to suffer. Besides anything, it can really kick up a stink too.