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Why Is Wastewater Making Its Way Into Beer?

Anyone fancy a frosty glass of activated sludge wheat beer? It turns out some Americans do. Recently Oregon and Milwaukee followed in the footsteps of Texas by turning wastewater into drinkable water. However, instead of drinking the water, Oregon and Milwaukee home brewers are turning it into some good ol’ fashioned beer. So, why is wastewater making its way into beer?
Oregon Brewing Competition Encourages Wastewater Beer
So what is causing Oregon home brewers to roll up their sleeves and make beer in their kitchen? Well, the Oregon Brew Crew, Clean Water Services and Carollo Engineers got together in September 2014 and held a competition to see who could brew the finest beer out of ultra-purified wastewater.
Thirteen home brewers made homebrews that were taste tested by a panel of judges. Strangely, it turns out highly purified wastewater is a pretty spectacular base for beer. It’s reportedly bland, which apparently is an amazing quality for water used to make beer as it allows beer producers to modify the taste of the beer more easily.
So what was the motivation behind the wastewater fuelled beer competition? Clean Water Services, like many other companies and organizations, want regulations to be passed in Oregon that allow breweries to use wastewater for commercial beer. (Currently only home brewers can get their hands on wastewater for the production of beer.)
Milwaukee Engineer Makes Activated Sludge Beer

Theera Ratarasarn, a wastewater engineer in Milwaukee, and a frequent home brewer, decided to turn up the intensity of his home beer experiments by using purified wastewater from his plant to make beer.
Ratarasarn chlorinated, dechlorinated, filtered, distilled, tested, and added nutrients to the water before beginning to make five gallons of beer.
It turns out the beer with the very literal name on its label of “Activated Sludge Wheat Ale” was pretty tasty and won nods by taste testers at local brewery, Lakefront Brewery.
So why did Ratarasarn want to turn heads and make a fairly controversial beer? “I wanted to get people talking,” he said. “There’s a potential use for what we discharge into lakes and streams.”
And he’s not wrong. Eventually, states in the US will have to change their regulations to adapt to climate change and increase water sustainability. Areas such as California and Texas are already doing this due to major droughts and are good examples of how other states can follow suit.
The Ick Factor
Although the thought of beer made from wastewater may put you off your suds, technically all water we use is reused. Yes even that glass of water/tea/insert-beverage-of-your-choice-here you drank today had been somewhere else before.
Once wastewater makes its way into commercial breweries that don’t emphasize the fact that they are using wastewater, it’s likely you won’t notice recycled water in your beer either.

0ba8618 Aisha Tejani
Aisha Tejani is a contributing writer of Castagra Products, a storage tank and wastewater coatings manufacturing company that is highly acclaimed for its sustainable coatings, cold weather tank and secondary containment coating applications. Castagra products are NSF-61 certified and are used by the world’s top water and wastewater contractors.