Anyone who imbibed in college has had their share of crappy beer, much of which is semi-affectionately referred to as “piss water”—but at least Natural Ice, Hamm’s, and Keystone are brewed from the usual ingredients (barley malt, water, hops, yeast). There’s probably corn in there too, but nothing too shocking. Not so with Swedish brewery Nya Carnegiebryggeriet’s 2018 pilsner PU:REST, which was proudly made with actual (treated) sewage water.
World Water Day. The issue of global water shortages continues to grow, and water restrictions are only one solution. According to last year’s press release for this pilsner, Chris Thurgeson, Nya Carnegiebryggeriet’s brewmaster, strongly believes “that both producers and consumers must dare to think differently if we are to successfully take care of Earth’s resources.” Perhaps someday, when we’re all less squeamish about what exactly that might entail, it will be standard happy hour practice to down a couple waste water beers with a side of insect meatballs.If you wonder why anyone would even do such a thing, there’s a great reason: the environment. We were reminded of this experiment today since March 22 is
The waste water was, of course, treated and purified before being used, but many people still found the whole idea unpalatable. According to Staffan Filipsson of the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, which collaborated on the beer, “the recycled water is as pure and safe as normal tap water,” yet the mental and emotional hurdle when it comes to drinking it is real. They hoped that turning it into beer might help.
America’s own Stone Brewing made a foray into the same arena in 2017, when they brewed a one-off pale ale with reclaimed water for a special event to demonstrate responsible water usage in their often drought-stricken home base of California. While they haven’t made any other beers with recycled water since, Nya Carnegiebryggeriet’s PU:REST was meant to be a permanent addition to Swedish shelves. It doesn’t appear on their website’s current roster of offerings, so maybe that didn’t pan out.
But back to California for a moment—reclaimed water has contributed to Orange County, California’s drinking water supply since 2008. And Namibia has recycled sewage into potable water for over half a century; it’s a more reliable supply in such a dry landscape. So there’s no doubt that it’s ecologically sound, and safe.
There are other ways to make use of waste, as well. In 2017, a Danish beer utilized urine collected from attendees at the Roskilde music festival. Somewhat reassuringly, the urine was not actually brewed into the beer, but was used to fertilize the barley malt that went into it. Suddenly, pristine, well-treated waste water doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
We expect to see other recycled water beers on tap in the future, though it may yet be a long while before they’re commonplace. And they may be an easier sell to beer geeks who regularly go wild for new releases brewed with unlikely ingredients, including beard yeast (plenty of mainstream beers are already processed with fish bladders too), as well as environmentalists who enjoy a pint.
But even for those who still feel hesitant, it’s an eye-opening lesson in the global water crisis and the importance of clean water for everyone—and the ways in which we can make good use of what we might rather leave behind.
For far less objectionable yet equally interesting beer options, check out the only beer brewed from hot springs—and don’t miss the best American beer festivals of 2019.
Header image courtesy of Nya Carnegiebryggeriet.