Beer Brewed from Shipping Container Waste Water Passes the Taste Test
One ripe criticism from beer drinkers about certain beers is that it ‘tastes like piss’. But it seems that beer made from recycled sewerage doesn’t taste of it at all. While not legal in most countries to make beer from water that has been through people’s bodies in the last few hours, a new shipping container based water recycling solution can reuse that water for the other processes in making the stuff. In doing this, breweries and wineries can significantly reduce the amount of water it takes to make their brews, in some cases halving their water use.
Would you drink beer from recycled sewerage?
If you were told that the beer you were about to drink was in someone’s bladder a few days ago would you drink it? If you’d had a few non-recycled beers it is more likely you would than if you hadn’t! In a blind taste test by experts, with one beer from freshwater and the other from recycled sewerage made by NASA, the beer experts named the wrong beer. “I chose the wrong one for the wrong reasons,” said Hugo Von Meijenfeldt, Californian Consul for the Netherlands and a self-confessed beer connoisseur, “but two times wrong makes for a positive.”
Beer takes a lot of water
For every pint of beer you drink, on average seven pints of water have been used during the industrial process of production. In areas of the world where there is drought this makes beer production a luxury that the community can’t really afford. One wonders what would happen if the Aussie government banned beer to save on water? It wouldn’t be pretty…
It is illegal in most parts of the world to recycle water that has been human sewerage for food and beverage use. However, there are a number of processes in food production that can use treated sewerage, notably in cleaning the tanks, hot water boilers and other areas where the water doesn’t end up in your pint.
The Cambrian Ecovolt system takes wastewater from the brewing process and cleans it, producing energy from the solids and re-using the water extracted for the brewing process. The system is based in a shipping container and can help reduce the water use in the brewing process from 7:1, to as little as 2:1. Using less than 30% of the water of traditional brewing processes is quite a big step in the right direction for brewers who might be in an area with water shortages and high water use costs.
California based brewery Lagunitas claim that they will be able to reduce their use to 2.5:1. In their blog they stated, “With the new water system in Petaluma we will be able to reduce our water usage ratio to 2.5:1 (a 40% reduction in water usage). This will make our Petaluma brewery one of the most water efficient breweries in the world.”
According to Cambrian, Lagunitas will recycle 300,000 gallons of water per day and produce around 50% of its energy needs from the biodigester power plant that uses the solid waste from the brewing process. Over the lifecycle of the Ecovolt system this could save the company US$22.5 million in water and energy costs, significantly reducing the costs of producing the beer it makes for its customers.
The Ecovolt system comes in two shipping containers. The Ecovolt Membrane Bio Reactor is a wastewater cleaning system, that according to the company, removes more than 99% of contaminants. It is connected to the Ecovolt Reactor (in another shipping container) that turns uses bacteria to produce very clean methane, and this in turn is burned to produce up to 200kWh of power.
Being based in shipping containers these can be scaled up according to the needs of the client using the system.
Wineries are also using the system. Napa Valley based Rombauer have just installed an Ecovolt system to tackle their water use and energy needs. “Water is the most precious resource a winery has, so integrating Cambrian’s EcoVolt solution into our production plans is core to our strategy as we work to become more water efficient in every aspect of the business,” said Richie Allen, Director of Viticulture and Winemaking at Rombauer Vineyards.
Could everyone end up drinking their own waste in times to come? Given that freshwater resources are shrinking and water use is becoming such a contentious issue, it isn’t inconceivable that laws may be changed to allow breweries and wineries to use recycled human waste. Water is believed to have come from comets around three billion years ago so you may be sipping dinosaur urine anyway, or even from cows that have voided their bladders at the riverside, so why not from your drinking buddy who just took a leak?!