Calgary brewery hopes to overcome ‘yuck factor’ with beer made from wastewater

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Village Brewery, which describes its lager beer as crisp, dry and slightly fruity, seeks to convince beer lovers that a new batch made from reused wastewater tastes just as good.The Calgary-based beer maker has partnered with researchers at the University of Calgary and US water technology company Xylem Inc. to brew a limited batch of 1,600 cans.

The aim was to show that dirty water – even that drawn from a large city’s toilet – can be made safe to drink while helping to preserve the world’s increasingly shrinking supply of clean water.

“We definitely expect some eyebrows to rise and the yuck factor is real,” said Christine O’Grady, project coordinator at Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets, or ACWA.

“Part of this project… is to start the conversation about how it can be done, why it should be done and that water is a resource we need to protect. ”

ACWA is a research partnership between the University of Calgary and the City of Calgary that includes the Pine Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility near the Bow River in the city’s southeast.

Increased processing

Municipal wastewater normally passes through a complex system that includes screens, filters, microbes, and ultraviolet rays to make it clean enough to return to the river.

The ACWA team took partially treated water from the plant and subjected it to more advanced purification to make it drinkable. This involved ultrafiltration, ozone, ultraviolet light, and reverse osmosis.

The idea of ​​making beer from wastewater started as a joke around the boardroom table as Xylem and ACWA discussed ways to work together.

“Then we said, ‘Well, we can make beer,’ O’Grady said. “We have all the technology. We have the capacity on all sides. ”

ACWA approached the village brewery.

“They are so progressive and cool. They were all gone, ”O’Grady said.

Shipped to the brewery

Jackson Stuart, the brewery’s marketing manager, said Village was excited to be part of a project that puts sustainability at the forefront.

He said he would be interested to see how keen customers are to sip foam brewed from reused wastewater.

“The most important thing for us was to try to make sure the beer tasted exactly the same as our other normal Village Blonde and we got there,” he said. ” We are confident. ”

The only difference in making beer is that the water did not come from the tap, but came into tanks.

Alberta Health Services helped partners develop a safety plan and tested the treated water to ensure it met drinking water standards.

“With the right measures in place, alternative water sources – such as wastewater, gray water, rainwater and stormwater collected from rooftops – can be made safe for many potable and non-potable end uses. drinking, ”said public health inspector Jessica Popadynetz.

‘The science is absolutely solid’

Bob Sandford, chair of the Global Water Futures chair at the United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health, said he believes the “yuck factor” can be overcome.

“The science is absolutely solid and is very compelling. The brewery has also done a very good job of explaining that, ”he said.

Natural systems have purified water to a potable level for hundreds of millions of years, Sandford said.

“We drink water that has passed through the dinosaurs. ”

In a changing climate and an increasingly populated world, high-level tertiary treatment technologies such as those used by ACWA will be crucial, he suggested.

“Due to the number of new contaminants of concern, we need to have ever more sophisticated water treatment systems and that’s what it indicates.

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