Let’s be honest--brewing uses a lot of water. Just put “Water conservation in breweries” into the search bar, and up pop results from Full Sail, New Belgium, Summit, and even macro-domestics like Millercoors. According to Full Sail Brewing, approximately 10 gallons of water are used to produce just 1 gallon of beer.
Plus, breweries are proud of where their water comes from, name-dropping rivers and glaciers. Just think of Olympia Brewing Company’s slogan, “It’s the Water” and their use of artesian well water. But what about brewing with water that seems a little less...desirable?
By now, most of us have seen (or at least heard about) Bill Gates drinking a glass of water with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show--”poop” water to be exact. The water was produced using the OmniProcessor--a Gates Foundation backed project from Janicki Bioenergy. The system processes sewage sludge into electricity, sterile ash, and of course, clean water. Check out the links at the end of this post to learn more about this project.
The project seems to be taking off too--Friday of last week, the city of Sedro-Woolley and Port of Skagit put out a press release announcing Janicki’s proposed use of the Northern State Hospital grounds for a campus devoted to OmniProcessor development and production. Currently, Northern State Recreation Area is home to popular walking trails in Skagit Valley--the trails wind around the former grounds of Northern State Hospital for the Insane. A fun place to explore, a few of the dilapidated buildings from the farm side of the hospital are still standing, albeit overgrown.
From a hiker’s perspective, the fear of losing natural spaces in the name of conservation seems backwards in some ways. Luckily though, it appears that a large part of the Janicki proposal guarantees the protection of the recreational area, as well as the area's spot on the National Registry of Historic Places. Not to mention, the campus would create around 1,000 family wage paying jobs within five years and increase Washington state’s green energy industry. Sounds good to me!
So what does all this have to do with beer? Clean Water Services of Hillsboro, Oregon, is asking the state to allow them to supply homebrewers in the Oregon Brew Crew with treated sewer water. They want to sponsor a competition, challenging homebrewers to create a beer using only reclaimed waste water. The resulting beers will be served at events--not on sale at the local taphouse just yet. Mark Jockers, Government and Public Affairs Manager for Clean Water Services hopes this will help open up a discussion about uses for waste water. Currently, Oregon does not readily allow reclaimed waste water to be provided as drinking water, despite the fact that this water is technically as clean or cleaner than most tapwater. Jockers says, "When people think about it enough it makes sense, although the initial knee-jerk reaction might be 'yuck.'”
Maria Konnikova recently published an article in the New Yorker on the problems that the OmniProcessor faces, not producing water, but getting people to drink it . Konnikova discusses the phenomenon known as contagion--kind of a once a snake, always a snake mentality. This idea is at work even in the Jimmy Fallon video, first in his distrust of Gates, and then his disgust after finding he had consumed the “poop” water. Even though he plainly says it just tastes like water. Perhaps a pint of "poop" water beer might have gone down smoother.
Readers, what are your thoughts? Are you a big fan of weird beers? Would you go out of your way to drink a beer made from reclaimed sewer water? Or is the ick factor just too high?
This beer seemed like the perfect homage to our recent Valentine’s Day exploits. We already shared with you our hike and beers, but neglected to share our night cap. We finished off our Valentine’s Day with a burlesque show put on by the amazingly talented Atomic Bombshells. This beer had the same tease of finish, and featured just as many layers. Cheers!