UCCS interns make sustainability a key ingredient of local microbrews

Three UCCS interns participating in the inaugural l Fountain Creek Brewshed Alliance Internship helped encourage sustainable practices at three local Colorado Springs breweries: Fossil Craft Beer Company, Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. and Storybook Brewing. Photo credit: Meritt Thomas

During the fall 2021 semester, three UCCS seniors became the first interns to participate in the inaugural Fountain Creek Brewshed Alliance Internship, where they brought sustainable practices to three Colorado Springs microbreweries.

The new internship program is a partnership between the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control & Greenway District, the UCCS Office of Sustainability, the T. Rowe Price Career and Innovation Center, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) Sustainable Breweries Program, Colorado Springs Utilities and three local breweries — Fossil Craft Beer Company, Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. and Storybook Brewing.

The participating interns included Natalie Church, Hogan Henz and Baley Therien, all three Geography and Environmental Studies majors.

“The program proved to be a winner all the way around,” said Alli Schuch, Watershed Outreach Coordinator of the Fountain Creek Watershed District and organizer of Colorado’s Brewshed Alliance. “Students connected with local businesses, local utilities and state health departments and received a wealth of information from all partners.”

Why pair local breweries and interns focused on sustainable practices, you might be asking? About 75 percent of Colorado Springs’ water supply comes from mountain streams flowing more than 200 miles away. The Fountain Creek Watershed, from which Colorado Springs derives other portions of its water, encompasses 927 square miles of land and water starting in Palmer Lake and flowing south to Pueblo. This means that Colorado Springs residents are the first to use the water that begins in Colorado’s high country before it travels downstream, supporting 19 other states and eventually making its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Keeping the water source plentiful and usable is a critical concern.

In addition, within the Colorado Springs watershed, there are over 30 microbreweries. Beer is composed of 90–95 percent water, and good water quality is a high priority for the craft brewing industry. The businesses that are part of the Fountain Creek Brewshed Alliance understand that good water makes great beer.

“With this internship in particular, our students were exposed to nonprofit and for-profit organizations working together to benefit the bottom line, the environment AND the community,” said Margie Oldham, Director of Community Relations for the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “Opportunities for this type of experiential learning is worth its weight in gold. Students get a chance to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in a real world situation. Plus, organizations and businesses get to work with tomorrow’s workforce, learning about what motivates them and how they will strive to make a difference in the future.”  

The three UCCS seniors included:

  • Natalie Church, Geography & Environmental Studies, Biochemistry
    •  Fossil Craft Beer Company
  • Hogan Henz, Geography & Environmental Studies, Energy Science minor and Sustainability minor
    • Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.
  • Baley Therien, Geography & Environmental Studies, Sustainability minor
    • Storybook Brewing

Each intern was partnered with a local brewery to work closely with CDPHE staff to provide a sustainability assessment of their operations. This included everything from energy and water conservation to diversity and equity policies to food waste reduction. Along with conducting opportunity assessments, UCCS interns participated in meetings with presentations from Colorado Springs Utilities. These presentations included information about rebates, and the CDPHE Environmental Leadership Program manager shared how these breweries could apply and be recognized for their efforts.

At the end of the semester, Church, Henz and Therien presented their findings at a Liquid Lecture hosted at Storybook Brewing. The event had over 20 community members in attendance, including Chuck Litchfield, UCCS’ Vice Chancellor for Administration & Finance. 

All three interns expressed interest in continuing their internship and working with their breweries to identify and work on projects before they graduate in May 2022.

About the Fountain Creek Brewshed Alliance

The Fountain Creek Brewshed Alliance is a program of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. The Alliance’s goal is to engage citizens in conversations and actions that will lead to water protection and enhancement.  The group consists of water resource and craft brewing industry professionals connecting our communities to the shared values of healthy watersheds and locally made beer through education and events. Interested students can find future Fountain Creek Brewshed Alliance Internship postings at the UCCS T. Rowe Price Career and Innovation Center’s Handshake website.

Watch the Liquid Lecture featuring the Fountain Creek Brewshed Alliance Internship Presentation online.