Bottoms up! A Southern Calfornia brewery is taking its beer from toilet to tap.
San Diego's Stone Brewing has started making a beer using treated sewage water. The beer, called Full Circle Pale Ale, was recently unveiled for a tasting at their brewery. The beer was made using the recycled water from Pure Water San Diego, a program that has set out to provide one-third of San Diego's water supply through its treatment system by 2035.
Stone Brewery is one of the largest (top 10) craft breweries in the United States and has made a concerted effort towards environmental sustainability. By brewing Full Circle Pale Ale, which will be available for sale soon, the brewery is testing consumer demand for a process with clear environmental benefits. The result, however, may be less about taste buds (water doesn't dramatically change the flavor of beer) and more about human psychology.
— Bree Steffen (@10NewsBree) March 17, 2017
Would You Drink the Beer?
When you read that the Full Circle Pale Ale was made using treated sewage water, your first reaction was probably not, "That sounds delicious!" As earlier pieces in Big Think have discussed ("Our Sense of Disgust Is Holding Back Life-Saving Innovation"), the thought of drinking treated sewage water often triggers a sense of disgust--even though the water is perfectly safe. There is a large gap between our brain and gut, and the concept of contagion (our fear of catching a disease) often kicks in.
As one of the participants in the tasting commented, he expected the taste to have an off taste. Knowing the origin of the water may impact our perception of what it will taste like. Even though the process of recycling the water eliminates any threat of contamination, it can be difficult to, well, trust your gut. Two years ago Bill Gates famously displayed our unease with drinking recycled water by going on the Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon to chug down "poop water."
The rise of craft brewing in the United States, which is at its highest point since the Civil War, has brought forward a lot of unusual flavors. Today you can find a Maple Bacon Coffee Porter or a Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout. The Full Circle Pale Ale, described to have tropical flavors and caramel notes, gets the vast majority of its flavor from the hops and malt used--not the water.
Let's see if understanding the science behind wastewater is something that consumers can swallow.