Beer – Good for What Ales You and More!

Homespun wisdom says “an apple-a-day keeps the Doctor away” but that traditional fall beer_pixfruit may now have liquid competition – beer!  A quick internet search on “beer and health” will reveal hundreds of articles on how drinking beer is good for your well-being. From colds to Alzheimer’s, beer seems to be the next wonder drug. Even more impressive, beer may come with a lot of environmental benefits.

For centuries beer has been known as a staple food source. Early mariners traveling long distances drank a particular style of beer known as India Pale Ale (IPA). IPA’s were brewed with higher alcohol content and used a larger amount of hops, both which offer preservative properties. Their combined protective effects were indispensable in keeping sailors well-nourished and hydrated on long voyages.

Last fall, I wrote an article called “Eco-chic Brewing” which talked about water conservation in the brewing industry. The piece mentioned a local Bisbee brewer, Beast Brewing Company, who re-uses harvested rain to cool wort as well as a “sewer brewer” contest in Portland, Oregon. The competition is sponsored by the Oregon Brew Crew home brewers club and Clean Water Services who runs four wastewater treatment plants in Portland suburbs.

This September the sewer brewers were at it again. Oregon Brew Crew members gave out awards for its third “Sustainable Water Challenge/Pure Water Brew Competition”. The trend in recycled effluent brewing seems to be catching on. Koin.com noted in a September 11, 2016 story that “wastewater utilities in Florida, Wisconsin and Arizona have partnered with brewers to create beer with purified water.”  Effluent beer brewing right here in Arizona? Yep.

The Arizona Craft Brewers Guild confirmed in a September 28, 2016 Havasu News.com story, they are working with Pima County Wastewater officials to allow treated effluent to be used as a raw material for beer brewing.  The Guild believes the plan can “help save millions of pints of water each year.” Got to love that!

The latest conservation news in the brewing industry involves using effluent from the beer brewing process to help produce lithium-ion batteries.  A research team at the University of Colorado – Boulder just published an article in the September 16, 2016 journal Applied Materials & Interfaces describing how brewery wastewater can be cultivated into fungal matts for “improving the electrochemical performance” of biomass-derived electrodes.  In other words, enhanced power production.

Essentially what the researchers did was add a fungus – Neurospora crassamycelia – to the sugar-rich beer wastewater to create a large fungal mass. When the mass was large enough, it was removed, dried, baked and ultimately used as a carbon source for the batteries.

Foxnews.com interviewed the scientists in an October 11, 2016 story. The researchers summarized the chief benefits to their innovative process saying “this new material is not only more sustainable than traditional battery materials that have to be mined but less expensive to create—plus the fungus cleans the brewery’s wastewater.”  Historically, lithium-ion batteries are produced using graphite generally mined in China.

So it seems beer production may be the next global panacea. Not only is it good for your health but the industry is leading the way in water conservation, wastewater reuse and energy production. Something we can all say “Cheers” to!

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