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A Toast To Saving Highlands Water

Listen up, beer drinkers.

Maybe it's been a while since you pushed back that stool and took a walk through a forest - and maybe you're not the type to worry about the water coming out of your tap. But Governor McGreevey has a new reason for you to care about the development that's threatening the pristine waters of the Highlands: It could be a recipe for skunk beer.The finest barley and hops in the world wouldn't produce a good can of Budweiser if the water wasn't of the quality provided by the forested Highlands, the governor said at a news conference Wednesday at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Newark."In every sip of Budweiser and Bud Light there is Highlands water," the governor said.

He stood alongside two-story-tall brew kettles and mash cookers used to produce more than 233 million gallons of beer last year, using water from the Wanaque and Monksville reservoirs.In recent months, McGreevey has stood next to countless streams in his campaign to convince the public of the need to protect the Highlands from polluted runoff and development.The Highlands is filled with lakes, streams, and aquifers that provide the drinking water for more than half the state's population.McGreevey acknowledged that his appearance at the brewery was an attempt to get his message across to those who may be less versed in the names of endangered forest creatures but particular about their brand of beverage.

"Yes, it's to reach a different audience," he said.This should put the Highlands campaign "over the top, especially with the college crowd," said Sen Bob Smith, D-Middlesex.McGreevey also wanted to point out how essential the water supply is to industry - and to jobs.Quality water is the key to quality beer, beer makers and critics said.

"Water will definitely affect the flavor of a beer," said Tony Forder, editor of a Maywood-based beer newsletter called Ale Street News and author of a beer review column that appears in The Record.Water is one of four primary ingredients in beer, along with hops, malted barley, and yeast. Mass-produced beers, such as Budweiser, will use either corn or rice as a cheaper filler ingredient, which means bad-tasting water could have an even bigger impact since those beers don't have as strong a malt flavor, said Forder, a connoisseur who opines that "Budweiser tastes like water."Historically, breweries selected their locations based on the quality of the local water supply, Forder said.

In the 19th century, the pure water from the Highlands that flowed into Newark attracted once-major brand names such as Ballantine and Krueger as well as several small breweries.St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch opened its Newark brewery in 1951. The company has 12 plants across the country.

Beer makers still need to pay attention to the source and purity of their water, said Scott Mennen, brewmaster at the Newark plant."Not all water is created equally," Brennan said. "So we look at the water same as we look at the hops we use, and the barley we use, and the rice we use."According to those who produce beers for the more discriminating of beer drinkers - people who prefer a premium-label ale or a German-style weiss - water can mean the difference between a bitter or lighter-tasting beer, said Greg Zaccardi, president of High Point Brewing Co.

in Butler, on the edge of the Highlands.Zaccardi said he deliberately chose Butler when he opened his microbrewery in 1996 because the local water was low in minerals such as zinc and magnesium and suitable for the dark weiss and blonde wheat brews he produces under the label Ramstein."I'm very much in favor of protecting the environment of the Highlands," Zaccardi said. "The water here is crucial.

"But what of Joe and Jane six-pack? Will the governor's trip to the brewery prompt them to wave banners saying "Stop the Bulldozers, Save our Beer?"At a bar in Paterson Wednesday afternoon, patrons were more interested in the quantity of beer than the quality of the water in Bud."Another," Tom Young called to the bartender. He and his friends were celebrating the Yankees' first win of the season. "Been drinking since 6 a.

m.," said the 44-year-old carpenter from Hawthorne.Budweiser, as it turns out, was his favorite beer in his early years. "We used to drink cases of the stuff in my father's garage," he said.

"I have a friend who used to say he'd only drink the Budweiser that came from Newark. He always said there was something in the water that gave it a special taste," he said."Yeah, pollution," said his friend, Tony Greggains.A Jersey native, Greggains hiked the Highlands as a boy.

In the past few years, he's been putting up houses around the edges of the pristine watershed. The West Milford resident hadn't much thought about preserving the mountains before McGreevey's press conference in the bowels of a beer factory.And did the governor make his point with his beer-drinking constituents? "I drink Guinness," Greggains said. "He can keep the Budweiser.

"McGreevey, whose stated beer preference is Harp, also opted not to taste a cold one during his noontime tour."We offered him a beer but it's probably a little too early in the day for him," said plant manager Jim Correll.By Colleen DiskinBergen Record - 4/1/2004Topic: Highlands
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