Mmm, nothing like sitting back and cracking open a cold can of crisp amber ale…that was once sewage.
A municipal water utility in Portland, Oregon, recently held a contest to see who could brew the tastiest beer from what was once wastewater — i.e. the stuff that runs off our farms and goes down our toilets — and we got to try it.
But don’t worry — the water used to brew the beer was strictly purified, and meets or exceeds the standards for drinking water (which specifies safe levels of bacteria, heavy metals, and other toxins).
The contest was designed to raise awareness about water scarcity, and to show that it’s perfectly safe to drink purified, recycled water.
“All water has been consumed before, and will be consumed again,” Clean Water Services spokesman Mark Jockers told Business Insider. “Let’s embrace the yuck factor!”
Embrace it we did.
What sewage beer tastes like
We got our hands on a few cans of an American Amber Ale and a Munich Helles. After chilling it in our office fridge, we got ready to sample it.
As we poured the Amber Ale into a few clear glasses, we tried not to let its colour remind us of its unappetizing origins.
We thought the beer smelled fruity and tasted somewhat hoppy and floral.
One colleague said she liked it and would drink it again, but noted that it tasted more like a pale ale. Another said she thought the beer tasted normal.
But not everyone liked it. Some of my other colleagues tasted the Purewater Brew Munich Helles side-by-side with a Yuengling. One of them (pictured at right) said the flavour was pretty generic, like Bud Light or Coors Light.
Most of them didn’t like the taste of the Helles, citing its cloudiness and weird aftertaste. Though it’s hard to say if they were influenced by knowing the beer’s history.
However, the beers we tried were just a sampling of the many varieties on offer.
More than two dozen brewers took part in the contest and winners were selected this summer. First place went to a German Pilsner. Other beers included a Cascadian dark ale, a Belgian pale ale, and an American pale ale.
The point of the beer contest was simply to show people that recycled water is perfectly fine to drink.
After all, no matter where water comes from, “we should be judging it by its quality, not its history,” Jockers said.
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