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Soil Matters: Spotlight on Conservation Partners

Outdoor America 2019 Issue 1

As the founders of PIVO Brewery, Sara and Craig Neuzil know that making high-quality beer requires access to high-quality ingredients, and clean water tops that list.

Beer is made mostly of water. The Neuzils get theirs from an underground aquifer that provides drinking water to all the residents of Calmar, a small community in northeastern Iowa. “Clean water definitely affects the flavor of the beer,” said Craig. “Our water in Calmar is heavy in dissolved minerals, which naturally makes really great stouts and porters.” While minerals can help brewers flavor a beer, contaminants in the source water can leave customers with a bad taste in their mouths.

So like many in the growing micro-brewery industry, the Neuzils see partnering with Mother Nature as more than just a good marketing strategy - it’s one of the driving principles behind their business. That ethic went into the brewery’s design, which included planting native prairie grasses and flowers and constructing a water retention pond onsite - all to increase water infiltration, reduce erosion, and prevent runoff into adjacent creeks and the groundwater supply.

Both local farm kids, Craig and Sara retired after two decades in the Air Force that took them around the world. They moved back to Calmar in 2017 to fulfill a life-long dream of opening a brewery and art studio.

The Neuzils’ actions to protect local water supplies and build environmental awareness go beyond their own operations. Craig serves as treasurer for the Winneshiek County Conservation Foundation, which supports local conservation efforts. When the Izaak Walton League approached them about signing onto a letter asking Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds to approve legislation that would address Iowa’s water quality crisis, the Neuzils didn’t hesitate. They also sent a letter to Iowa Senator Joni Ernst asking her to support strong conservation measures in the 2018 reauthorization of the Farm Bill.

With 4 full-time and 12 part-time employees, PIVO has produced and sold more than 50 varieties of home-made beers and ciders. In addition to their expansive taproom, PIVO is now distributing their products to bars and restaurants in 28 Iowa counties. Future plans include increased production and sales throughout northern Iowa (which means hiring more employees) and the addition of an events center that can accommodate 300-400 people for receptions, parties, and community events.

“One of our business goals has always been around the concept of ‘local’,” says Craig, which includes protecting the natural resources that surround them. “We believe in taking care of what you have,” says Sara. “And it’s good economically.” Sounds like a recipe for success.

You can find more information about PIVO Brewery at pivoblepta.com or facebook.com/PIVOBrewery.

Tim Wagner, IWLA Agriculture Outreach Coordinator