Bottles of Rain Barrel  Bohemian Pilsner wait to be filled at Virginia Beach's Pleasure House Brewing. Photo Credit: Chris Gorri/CBF Staff

A Bay Saver's Brew

As Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe gulped down a glass of filtered rainwater, there really wasn't a better way to showcase CBF's Brock Center as the first building in the continental United States permitted to treat rainwater to drinking water standards. But as CBF staffers brainstormed engaging ideas for the first-ever Save the Bay Family Day, they had an epiphany—beer.

Virginia Beach's Pleasure House Brewing and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation teamed up to brew a one-of-a-kind beer using rainwater collected at the Brock Environmental Center. Rain Barrel: A Bay Saver's Brew  is a Bohemian Pilsner that was ready just in time to sample at Save the Bay Family Day on September 10 at the Brock Center.

Using rainwater is a first for the brewery, which is one of just a handful in the country to turn rainwater into beer. "Brewing is so water-intense," said Drew Stephenson, co-owner of Pleasure House Brewing. "That's why we do whatever we can to recycle and conserve water." With the Brock Center little more than a mile away, working with CBF was a natural fit. "When we founded the brewery, our main mission was to tie it into our community," Stephenson said.

Rain falling on the Brock Center's roof is funneled into two large cisterns, where it passes through a filtration system and supplies all the building's water needs. The 300 gallons used to brew the first batch of Rain Barrel  is the amount captured in an average summer thunderstorm. Environmental engineers at MSA, P.C., have been key to certifying that the rainwater has been safe to drink. "Thanks to their hard work, we can drink the water here daily and now make beer from it," said CBF Brock Center Manager Chris Gorri.

In early August, Cape Henry Launch Services, which delivers drinking water to ships, trucked hundreds of gallons of treated Brock Center rainwater across the Lynnhaven River to Pleasure House Brewing. The large tank was then raised up on a crane, where the water was gravity fed into brewing vessels. Gorri and Brock Center Coordinator Erica Park added hops to the first batch of beer.

Following the successful Save the Bay Family Day, which drew more than 1,000 members of the community to celebrate CBF's 50th anniversary, Rain Barrel  is climbing the charts at Pleasure House Brewery. Now its third most-selling beer of all time, this one-of-a-kind beer continues to serve as a unique educational tool.

Sidebar Photo: Robert Miller.