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SYFY WIRE Environment

Science comes to a head: German brewer makes beer from recycled toilet water

By Benjamin Bullard
Beer in a pint glass

Craft beer lovers are flush with tasty options these days, but a new beer from Germany is hopping up its newest offering with a dose of environmentally minded science that may cause you never to look at raw sewage — yes, we said raw sewage — the same way again.

Raise a glass to the aptly named Reuse Brew, the beer whose chief claim to fame is that it’s made from recycled waste water — as in, the stuff you flush (along with other things) down the toilet. As part of a German campaign to raise awareness for environmental issues by carrying reusability to one of its most extreme conclusions, engineering company Xylem partnered with utilities authorities in Berlin to create the daring brew — which, as C|net recently reported (and we’ll just have to take their word for it), turns out to be pretty pleasant.

A malty brown ale with “nicely balanced hops and carbonation,” according to the report, Reuse Brew is made from water whose trip between the toilet and the bottle is extremely short and direct. As part of a recent consumer tech show in Berlin, Xylem offered guests a tour of the waste water treatment plant where Reuse begins life as fetid, stinking sewage — a place that served up a smell, as the C|net reporter put it, that ranked as “one of the most intensely awful things I've ever experienced.”

But thanks to the stank-scrubbing power of technology, a thorough purification process subjects the sewage to what amounts to a complete teardown and rebuilding project “on a molecular level,” eventually passing the rehabbed water through a series of carbon filters “that supposedly eliminate 99.999% of all pollutants and chemicals.”

In reality, the water the beer is made from isn’t so very different from the water that flows from taps in developed urban areas where public reservoirs — not to be confused with actual waste water facilities like this one — cozy up against all the detritus of modern life. But Reuse is as much about pointing out how effective technology can be at solving the pollution problems that beset some of the the world’s densest and most populous places — and at that, it appears to be a success … even if you might find yourself mentally holding your nose while you taste the proof.