Climate change means beer made from sewer water, says North Carolina brewery

Water? Like from the toilet?

Fancy a cold one? Would it change your mind if that frothy, frosty beer was brewed using treated wastewater?

Town Brewing in Charlotte, NC sure hopes not, because that's the schtick behind its latest creation: Renew Brew, which is being created using water treated at the city's McDowell Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

According to local news outlet WCNC, Charlotte Water, Town Brewing and water technology firm Xylem have teamed up to create Renew Brew, a pale ale being brewed using water that previously flowed through sinks, showers, toilets, rainwater drains and other less-than-potable places. 

There's a lot of work that goes into treating wastewater, which is full of biological and chemical contaminants that render it unsafe for human consumption. Such water isn't typically returned directly to drinking water supplies, and is instead returned to the environment where further filtering can be done at drinking water plants through a process known as indirect potable reuse. 

That's beginning to change, however, in drought-stricken areas like California, which late last year passed a law approving direct potable reuse, which sees former sewage water treated and fed directly back into the drinking water system. 

The water used for Renew Brew is reportedly made fit for brewing using carbon filters, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation that reportedly leaves it free of the more than 150 contaminants it is tested for and makes it more than compliant with the Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water Act.

The beer, which isn't currently available for off-the-shelf purchase, premiered last month at Charlotte's Queen City Brewers Festival, where it won best-in-show in a blind taste test. 

The world needs more sewer beer

Anyone who's visited a wastewater treatment plant (like this vulture) can attest to them not being a pretty sight. Dirty water as foamy as beer isn't exactly confidence-instilling and is more likely to make one reach for a bottle off a supermarket shelf than going to the tap, be it from a sink or at a biergarten. 

It's that exact stigma that Town Brewing is trying to circumvent, all in the name of climate change.

"In an industry where the majority of our product is water, and knowing the large amount of it that it takes to make a single pint of beer, it is vastly important to be a part of any sustainability effort that we can – especially an ingredient as important to us as water," Town Brewing head brewer Frederico De La Torre told WCNC. Estimates vary, but it takes around six gallons of water (22.7 liters) on average to make one gallon of beer (3.78 liters).

Town Brewing's attempt at creating a beer from sewer water isn't even new - similar products have been produced in California, Kentucky, Oregon and Arizona too - in some cases for years.

The world is reaching a tipping point in its water supplies, which make efficient use of wastewater for things like brewing, and just plain drinking, all the more essential. 

A study last year found that more than half the world's lakes and reservoirs - where a lot of the water used to brew beer comes from - have shrunk since the 1990s, primarily due to climate change. To make matters worse, a study published in January found that more than half of aquifers (subterranean water sources) in the US are drying up. 

Add to that the spread of water-intensive datacenters and thirsty AI that's likely to just get thirstier and we have a full-fledged water crisis on our hands. 

In other words, if beer brewed from sewage water puts you off, it's time to get over it, especially for those living in dry regions where direct potable reuse could soon become the norm. ®

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