“Eco-chic” Brewing

“Eco-chic”, which the Urban Dictionary defines as “anything new and trendy that causes a ‘green frenzy’”, is certainly a new phrase for brewers from Bisbee to Oregon as they opt to find ways to reuse water in both processes and products. Some of these water saving techniques are quite practical while others are certainly turning heads and maybe even a few stomachs. Intrigued? Read on.

On the practical side of things is the Beast Brewing Company of Bisbee. They were recently featured as a commercial site on Water Wise’s annual Bisbee Water Harvesting Tour. Beast is a green minded company which strives to reduce their carbon footprint in a number of ways, including water conservation.

The Beast owners hbeerlabel2ave re-purposed an old 300 barrel (about 1,000 gallon) fermentation tank to collect harvested rainwater and wastewater.  The collected water is used to help cool the “wort” at a later stage of the brewing process in a heat exch
anger.

The collected water is pumped through tubing placed next to the hot wort in a heat exchanger. The recycled water continuously cycles and absorbs the heat from the wort, allowing it to cool to a safe temperature. The cooled brew is then ready for consumption. Beast estimates that it is saving approximately 3,000 gallons of water every month using this technique and hopes to double the water savings with some new innovative process changes.

On the fringe side of water conservation are some home brewers of Oregon who have accepted a challenge to create great tasting beer using highly purified wastewater. Yep, folks, that’s the politically correct term for sewer water!

According to HuffingtonPost.com, roughly 20 home brewers from the “Oregon Brew Crew”, now dubbed “sewer brewers”, are expected to take part in this year’s “Pure Water Brew Challenge.” The contest, envisioned by Clean Water Services of Portland Oregon, which runs four wastewater treatment plants in the Portland suburbs, aims to “promote water quality over water history”. Contestants will be given wastewater for their brew purified using ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation.

Mark Jockers, a spokesman for Clean Water Services was quoted on HuffingtonPost.com saying, “The water we’re producing is significantly cleaner than what the safe drinking standards are for water that comes out of taps across the United States.”  While that may be true, its likely most Americans would still prefer their beer’s water to originate in cool, crisp mountain streams like they see in beer commercials.

Surprisingly, drinking treated wastewater is really nothing new.  Some drought stricken states and municipalities have resorted to this sort of recycling approach to supply water to their constituents. In July 2014 CBSNews.com reported on “toilet to tap” wastewater recycling in the two Texas towns of Big Springs and Wichita Falls which have been severely impacted by the ongoing drought.

Given the extremes some communities have resorted to in providing potable water for their residents, we should all be grateful we are working together to protect our water resources. As dire circumstances related to drought continue to unfold around us, we need to be ever vigilant. We often forget water is a resource we are all totally dependent upon but ultimately have limited control over.

Then again, maybe we could spur a new form of “eco-tourism” here in Sierra Vista by adding a “sewer brewer” pub at the Environmental Operations Plant? Maybe we could slightly modify the new slogan city planners have worked so hard to develop to include this new pub idea? How about ”Extraordinary skies. Uncommon Ground. Exceptional brew.”?!

-Sandra Hurlbut

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