Hops farmers are pursuing a sustainable certification meant to save salmon. But are beer drinkers willing to pay more?

Crosscut | July 19, 2019 | by Hannah Weinberger

When Joel VandenBrink hiked Mount Rainier’s Wonderland Trail in 2012, the experience left him with a sense of awe and a desire to give back to the environment. The founder of Two Beers Brewing decided to fuse his work with his sense of stewardship. In 2015 his team produced Wonderland Trail IPA, a beer with some proceeds going toward the Washington Trail Association.
Then, last year, VandenBrink decided to expand his efforts offshore. “Mountains and water are equally important in the Northwest,” he says.

For inspiration, VandenBrink focused on the Southern Resident Killer Whale population, which has become a symbol of a struggling marine environment battling development and climate change. His team suggested numerous ingredients sourced from the Salish Sea, where the whales roam, but seaweed, algae and salt all seemed to be “too esoteric.” Then VandenBrink remembered a meeting he’d had a few years before with a nonprofit called Salmon Safe.

An Oregon-based sustainable certification organization, Salmon Safe encourages  farms, vineyards, buildings and even golf coursesthroughout Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia to mitigate their impacts on salmon habitat by doing things like reducing pollution-heavy stormwater runoff. For a brewery, that means getting its facilities certified or sourcing ingredients from farms that have restored salmon-inhabited streams and limited their use of water and pesticides.

“They were recruiting breweries to change their hops to Salmon-Safe hops, and I thought, well, heck, all the reading I’ve done in the news about the demise of the southern resident killer whales is because [of a lack of] salmon … so let’s focus on ecological endeavors and use Salmon-Safe hops as a tribute,” VandenBrink says…..