Water a Tree, Beer for Free

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A little over a year ago, seven professional tree enthusiasts met for beers to contemplate a big issue: Due to the emerald ash borer epidemic, an estimated 7,000 trees are being cut down each year in Minneapolis. And while new trees are being planed in their place, the City of Minneapolis only has the capacity to water 15–16% of the saplings.

That wasn’t good enough for Ben Johnson, Russell Kennedy, Eric North, Joshua Plunkett, Philip Potynody, Valerie Price, and Jonathan Osthus.

The group of urban-forestry workers and friends decided to take action. Combining their love of beer and trees, the crew formed Brewing a Better Forest. The group’s mission is to engage and encourage residents to notice, appreciate, and help water newly planted city trees—first in Minneapolis, then in St. Paul, and then, hopefully, around the country and world.

Here’s the gist: after logging on to their website, brewingabetterforest.com, click on Adopt-a-Tree. From there, you zoom in on a map to your neighborhood, click on a tree by your house, adopt and name it, promise to water it, and a few days later you’ll get a wooden token in the mail good for a free beer at 612Brew.

That’s it. There’s no cost (non-profit group People for Parks is the financial supporter), no guilt trip, and no need to worry about forgetting to water your new little guy or girl. Brewing a Better Forest will email you reminders when it’s time to grab the hose and give your sapling a drink.

Russell Kennedy says the key to the whole project is simplicity. “It’s an on-your-honor system, and it’s meant to be easy,” he says. Since launching the website in November 2014, more than 100 people have signed up to adopt trees. As the weather improves and more people turn their attentions to their yards and gardens, Kennedy expects the numbers to grow.

So far, 612Brew is the sole beer partner, but the group is in talks with other breweries and cideries around town to join as sponsors. Eventually, when the movement really gets rolling, Brewing a Better Forest hopes to expand their reach to St. Paul, Duluth, and beyond. For now, Minneapolis is a big enough project. “Ideally, we’ll have 14,000 to 16,00 trees up for adoption in Minneapolis in the next few years,” Kennedy says.

That’s a big number, but with free beer as an incentive—and the fact that adopters don’t have to travel any farther than their own front yards—it’s not an impossible one. Mark this Arbor Day by adopting a little sapling of your own, then go celebrate your newfound parenthood with a beer from 612.

Other Arbor Day happenings:

First Annual Tree Chuggers Recognition Party



Big Wood Brewery, 2222 4th St, White Bear Lake

Beer and food pairings, prizes, unlimited beer all night, two local comedians, and other shenanigans

Ellen Burkhardt About Ellen Burkhardt

Ellen Burkhardt is a freelance writer. When she's not writing, editing, or interviewing, chances are she's on the road seeking out good food, drink, and fodder for her next story.

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