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Salmon-safe certified beer debuts at Brick West Brewing one day after 146 Chinook released into the Spokane River

Aug. 26, 2022 Updated Fri., Aug. 26, 2022 at 8:28 p.m.

Brick West Brewing debuted its first “salmon-safe” certified beer Thursday evening, a day after the Spokane Tribe released 146 chinook into the Spokane River.

“Every time you drink a beer you save a salmon,” Conor Giorgi, the Anadromous Program Manager at the Spokane Tribe of Indians, told the assembled crowd.

While the link between beer drinking and smolt returns hasn’t been definitely proven, the idea behind the salmon-safe certification is to promote and reward growers who are good stewards of the watersheds they work on, said Brian Muegge, a certification specialist for salmon-safe. The nonprofit is not an advocacy organization and doesn’t wade into hot-topic issues, like dam removal.

Brick West’s Upstream beer, however, is made from locally sourced hops and malts that were grown according to the salmon-safe certification. To get that certification growers need to implement a handful of peer-reviewed methods for maintaining and enhancing stream and river quality.

“We care about how you manage your land,” Muegge said.

The cost of becoming salmon-safe varies depending on the size of the operation, Muegge said. The two growers who supplied the hops and barley for the Brick West beer were Perrault Farms in Yakima and Clearwater Farms in Idaho.

Craft beer and whiskey makers and drinkers like to know where the ingredients come from, said Brian Estes, who works at LINC foods in Spokane and supplies Brick West with its hops and barley. Knowing that the malt and hop growing process didn’t degrade fish habitat is a plus for brewers and consumers alike.

“They know about the cultural and ecosystem importance of salmon,” he said.

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