By Hillary Borrud
Roger Prowell spent more than two decades hiking through Bend’s Bridge Creek watershed, checking for lightning-sparked wildfires and raising awareness of water quality issues among city employees.
As the city’s water quality supervisor, Prowell worked with the U.S. Forest Service to limit recreation inside the watershed to hiking and create a permit entry system to ensure people do not contaminate the water.
Larry Sidor, master brewer at Crux Fermentation Project and Prowell’s friend, said brewers have Prowell to thank for the high quality of city water today. “It’s amazing water to brew with,” Sidor said.
To celebrate Prowell’s work on the watershed, Sidor crafted a special batch of beer called Prowell Springs Pre-Prohibition Lager. On Tuesday, a dozen of Prowell’s family and friends gathered at the brewpub to taste the beer. The Bend City Council took the first step earlier this year to name the city’s drinking water source springs after Prowell, in recognition of his work on the watershed during his 24-year career with the city.
“I do collaborations with other brewers and malt suppliers and hop suppliers,” Sidor said. “I guess, why not honor somebody who’s the single biggest part of your ingredients? And Bend water, at least what comes from Bridge Creek, it’s fantastic water.”
For his part, Prowell said the city’s water is ideal for brewing beer because the quality is consistently high, whether the city is drawing most of its water from Bridge Creek and Tumalo Creek, or from groundwater wells. “There are subtle differences, but slight enough so you don’t have to change the recipe much,” Prowell said. The city diverts water from the source springs on Tumalo Creek down into Bridge Creek where the city water intake facility is located.
Prowell, who uses a wheelchair, has an aggressive form of the neurodegenerative disease ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and can cause paralysis during later stages of the disease.
Prowell retired from his work with the city in 2008. Sidor was working for Deschutes Brewery when he met Prowell.
“One of the things I do when I am in a municipality, I try to get to know all the shakers and movers and things that affect the company I’m with,” Sidor said.
He frequently ran water quality tests, and “I got to know Roger from that, because I think he wanted to know, ‘Who is this guy asking all the questions about the water?’”
When Sidor called Prowell to pitch the idea of a special beer earlier this year, Prowell requested a lager. Sidor said lager is the perfect type of beer to highlight the pristine water from the city’s source springs.
Sidor began brewing the beer in early November. He waited until the city was drawing nearly all its water from Bridge Creek and Tumalo Creek in order to maximize the amount of spring water in the beer. But Sidor also knew that because of Prowell’s ALS, he needed to brew the beer quickly.
“I was in a real hurry to get it out there, so Roger could test it,” Sidor said. He plans to bottle some of the beer and create labels based on a painting of the springs that Prowell likes.
In addition to city water, Sidor used corn and barley to brew Prowell Springs Pre-Prohibition Lager. It’s a traditional recipe, similar to what German immigrants began brewing in the United States in the early 1800s. “I brewed beer you probably could have bought 100 years ago in the U.S.,” Sidor said. “And the biggest thing is, it showcases the water.”
Prowell said he also has many people to thank. In addition to his family, Prowell said his friend Spencer Cashwell and hospice nurse Melinda Carr helped him to remain happy in recent months as he has lived with ALS. At Crux Fermentation Project on Tuesday, Prowell proposed a toast, “in recognition of Crux brewery, as makers of excellent beer and for all the springs Mother Nature gave us high in the Cascades that provide this water. And you know, good people blend with good water. That’s been my experience in my life.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7829, firstname.lastname@example.org