There’s a lot of water in beer – and we mean a lot. Consisting of 95 percent water, brewers use about seven gallons of water to make one gallon of beer but all of this water can get expensive and drain the local supply, so beer-producers are always looking for a way to reduce their water footprint, in the hopes of saving some money and helping the environment. But one Canadian brewery is taking it to a whole other level, using treated wastewater as the main ingredient.
Village Brewery, a moderately-sized craft beer maker in Calgary that donates 10 percent of its bottom line back to the local community, recently created a limited release batch of its flagship beer, Village Blonde Natural Golden Ale but this batch was a little different. Brewed with treated wastewater to help bring attention to the worldwide issue of water scarcity, the brewery partnered with the University of Calgary’s as well as a water technology company to create a beer that is not only safe to drink but tastes like the original, even though its water might’ve one day sat in your toilet.
Village Blonde is a 4.5 percent ABV, 15 IBUs effort that features Galena, Willamette and German Tettnang hops and follows the Reinheitsgebot, a German purity law from the 1500s. The core ingredient of the wastewater batch, which was released Aug. 22 through an online launch with accompanying information, was processed by a biological removal treatment plant and then additional steps such as ultrafiltration, oxidation and reverse osmosis were taken. Afterward, it was tested to ensure no pathogens remained. The finished product was just as clean as tap water and ready for brewing.
It might sound like a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo, but it’s as safe as any other beer. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a stigma behind the process of brewing with treated wastewater.
“There’s a mental hurdle to get over of how inherently gross this could be,” said head brewer Jeremy McLaughlin in the video. “But we know that this water is safe, we know that this beer is safe, and we stand by our process.”
One of the first batches of beer brewed with treated wastewater came back in 2018, when a group from Sweden consisting of Nya Carnegiebryggeriet Brewery, Carlsberg and the Swedish Environmental Research Institute collaborated on a Pilsner using a similar process. Named PU:REST, the 4.8 percent team-brewed Pilsner sold out quickly and proved there was a market for this idea. But is it an something that could catch on and lead to another brewing trend?
While anything is possible, it’s likely that the mindset of general beer drinkers wouldn’t align with a beer they believed was “made with toilet water.” It also sounds like the process is somewhat time consuming but if it saves some money and helps the world a little, well, why not.