Epic OneWater Brew sounds like a classic hipster craft beer.
The case sports a sleek design with a city skyline silhouette, crackling with a satisfying hiss. The beer, a Kölsch, is distinguished by its crisp golden color and distinct fruity taste.
But there’s one big difference: It’s made from recycled wastewater.
The product of a partnership between a wastewater technology startup and a Bay Area craft brewery, Epic OneWater Brew is made using treated shower and wash water collected from a luxury high-rise apartment building in San Francisco. And it’s not the only beer of its kind.
As water sources, particularly in the western United States, dry up from overuse, drought and climate change, proponents of direct drinking water reuse — the use of treated wastewater in the drinking water supply — are touting it as part of the solution. They are increasingly turning to beer as a way to get people out of the “shit factor” that has been an obstacle to its wider acceptance.
If people are reluctant to drink recycled wastewater, the thinking goes, perhaps they could be tempted if it was served in the form of ice cold water.
Aaron Tartakovsky, co-founder and CEO of Epic Cleantec, the wastewater technology company that worked with Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company in San Carlos, Calif., to create Epic OneWater Brew, said he wanted to craft the beer to show the “untapped potential” for water reuse.
“We live in what we here at Epic like to call a ‘flush and forget’ community,” he said. “We have this innate shit factor when it comes to talking about sewage, or sewage, and all these other kinds of yuck factor topics.”
Some Western and Southwestern cities struggling to manage the challenges of growing populations and strained water supplies have held competitions for craft breweries to produce their signature beer using recycled wastewater. California, Idaho and Arizona are among the states that have worked with local breweries to raise awareness of the need for water reuse.
Scottsdale, Arizona, which has watered nearly two dozen golf courses with treated wastewater since the 1990s, received a state permit in 2019 that allows direct reuse of its purified, recycled, potable water. Scottsdale does not currently send this water to the drinking supply, but Brian Bessemer, CEO of Scottsdale Water, said that could change in two or three years.
To help the public get their heads around the concept of drinking treated wastewater, Scottsdale Water invited 10 breweries to make beer using water from the city’s advanced water treatment plant and present it at the Arts Festival in 2019. The beer tents were accompanied by an information booth demonstrating the recycling process.
While initially people looked forward to the prospect of drinking treated wastewater, Mr Biesemeyer said, many were eager to sample the beer after an education program on how clean and safe treated water was.
“We found the beer event to be a kind of fun way to get people to get over that fear,” he said.
Desert Monks Brewing Company in Gilbert, Arizona, which participated in the Scottsdale Challenge, has taken the concept and brewed two beers with Scottsdale’s treated sewage. The Sonoran Mist, the lager, has quickly become the biggest seller of beer, and Hefeweizen will be added to the lineup next month.
Two of the brewery’s owners, Sommer Decker and John Decker, believe Desert Monks is the first brewery in the country to consistently serve beer made from recycled sewage.
“We are a small brewery, so being able to get this ultra-pure water from a large-scale entity has given us more pure water than we can get from our own systems at this point,” said Ms. Decker.
Overcoming the “weakness factor”
Efforts to promote wider use of recycled drinking water have suffered from a perception problem, magnified by detractors who have denounced the process as a “toilet to tap.” But researchers at Stanford University found last year that recycled wastewater is safe to drink as well Less toxic than other tap water sources Because it is treated more strictly.
At Scottsdale, this process includes ozone infusion, microfiltration, and reverse osmosis, in which water is forced through a membrane to remove dissolved minerals and other impurities. Then the water is pressurized with UV rays. Combined, these measures remove “the darn close to everything,” said Mr. Bismayer.
“I think the biggest thing is that it tastes good,” said Chris Jarrett, owner of Devil’s Canyon, where Epic OneWater Brew is made, noting that people have preconceived notions about sewage. They assume, ‘Oh my God, she’s drowning in the water. And he’s like, well, maybe it’s actually cleaner than what comes out of the rivers.”
The epic drink was born in the year 2021 in San Francisco decree New buildings larger than 100,000 square feet are required to have water reuse programs on site. Epic Cleantec has partnered with 1550 Mission Street, a luxury high-rise apartment building, and Devil’s Canyon to turn the building’s gray water—runoff from washing and showers, not toilets—into beer. The Epic OneWater Brew is not for sale, but Mr. Tartakovsky said he served it at his wedding last month.
When a brewery in Half Moon Bay, California, decided to try brewing with wastewater, it turned to a neighbor for help: NASA, which developed its own water recycling technology so astronauts could drink water in space. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company captured recycled gray water from the space agency’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, and used it to make a limited-edition India Pale Ale called Tunnel Vision. Beer was served at events for limited periods between 2014 and 2017.
“The water was more neutral than the water we use here,” said James Costa, a brewer in Half Moon Bay. “Nobody can tell the difference.”
Judge water by its quality, not by its history
the Pure Water Brewing Alliance It is a consortium of water utility companies, breweries, engineering firms, and technology companies that share resources, technologies, and information for using recycled wastewater to make beer. The goal is to “judge water by its quality, not by its history,” said Travis Loeb, one of the coalition’s leaders.
“We have the technology to purify the water and purify the water,” he said. “And as we can see in the times that we’re in, we’re going to need to do a lot of that.”
Boise, Idaho, a fast-growing city in the high desert, turned to the coalition when it was looking to upgrade its water treatment and distribution system in 2018. A fellow member, Pima County, Arizona, showed Boise a trailer with technology that could turn sewage into drinkable water. Other members exchanged the papers they used to obtain permits to use recycled wastewater to brew beer, condensing a process that previously took from six months to just six weeks, Mr. Loeb said. Boise has partnered with three breweries and a cemetery, and hosted events in 2018 where recycled wastewater brews were served.
Currently, recycled sewage beer is only available for sale in Arizona. Since California sewage could not be consumed, breweries there were limited to one-off drinks for certain events. In Idaho, a permit allowing treated wastewater to be consumed was only in effect briefly, in 2018, but Boise is developing a large-scale water recycling program.
Scottsdale is the only city in Arizona that allows the public to recycle its waste water. This works to the benefit of the monks of the desert, who benefit from its access to large quantities of highly purified water. Mr. Decker, one of the brewery’s co-owners, joked that he had set his sights far beyond Arizona.
“I use the same water processes that astronauts use,” he said. “So if anyone’s going to Mars, we’ve got beer for them.”