Helping Rivers, One Beer at a Time

Photo: Stacy Beaugh

Photo: Stacy Beaugh

By Amanda Arnold

Row, row, row your boat.
And gently drink your beer.

And if you really care about rivers, make that beer an amber ale from Many Rivers Brewing Company, which donates all profits to nonprofit organizations that support river environments.

Rivers have been important to Tim Carlson for almost 50 years, and he has spent the last 15 years working on the Colorado River basin with several foundations, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. In 2002, he also helped start the Tamarisk Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advances the restoration of riparian lands throughout the West through collaboration, education and technical assistance.

Two years ago, Carlson retired from the Tamarisk Coalition, but that only lasted a few weeks. He couldn’t just sit by idle because the rivers still need support.

“I’ve found that after all the big effort and heavy lifting is done, they (nonprofit organizations) have difficulty getting funds for ongoing maintenance,” he said.

One evening, Carlson was drinking some homebrew with Arizona residents Chip Norton and Steve Ayers. They discussed more sustainable funding for riverorganizations. There had to be something better than approaching people for donations.

“We thought, why can’t we do something different? Why can’t we create a company that makes something good that people want? So, we focused on beer,” he said.

Shortly after that conversation, Carlson, Ayers and Norton worked with Stacy Beaugh, executive director of the Tamarisk Coalition, to launch Many RiversBrewing. The contract brewer is certified as a B Corp, meaning it meets rigorous standards for social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

Many Rivers launched this year with an amber brewed at Kannah Creek Brewery in Grand Junction. Carlson approached Kannah Creek owner and brewmasterJim Jefferies with his idea and a beer recipe. Jefferies helped Carlson fine-tune the recipe, and Many Rivers contracted with Kannah Creek’s Edgewater Brewery to start crafting the amber ale in February.

“We selected Edgewater because they make good, quality beer. They always support the community, so it’s a perfect arrangement,” Carlson said.

Jefferies and his wife Bern were enthusiastic and long-time river runners, and Kannah Creek works closely with fundraising efforts for the Tamarisk Coalition and River Front Commission. Therefore, Many Rivers was a perfect fit. 

"Stewardship of the Colorado River system needs all the help and good input we can provide. Our river is amazing and we sought out our manufacturing location to be next to it back in 1998,” Jefferies said.

Currently, the amber ale is the only Many Rivers brew, but an IPA and a blonde ale are slated for release later in the summer. In the future, Many Rivers would like to brew seasonal beers as well. Soon, Many Rivers will also begin canning beers for packing along on river trips.

Many Rivers beer is available in bottles in several liquor stores and restaurants throughout Grand Junction, Fruita and Palisade. Carlson is distributing the product by himself, but he’s working with a distributor to expand throughout the Western Slope. Next year he plans to have Many Rivers on the Front Range and Arizona.

“Wherever we sell the beer is where we will donate profits,” Carlson said.

Profits already go to nonprofits working on river-related projects in the communities where the beer is sold. In Grand Junction, Many Rivers supports the Riverfront Foundation, the Grand Valley Audubon Society, the Mesa Land Trust and the Tamarisk Coalition.

“Our goal is to help the community improve their connection to the rivers, and to gain respect for the value it brings to the community. If people understand the value of rivers, they’re more likely to protect them,” Carlson said.

So, sit back and enjoy a beer that benefits the fragile riparian environments.