Sewer Water Beer Gets the Go Ahead in Portland

Glass of light beer on a dark pub.
New craft beers and keeping things weird are the norm in Portland, OR, but a new venture is combining both and taking weirdness to a whole new level. After months of waiting, a group of homebrewers has finally gotten the go-ahead to brew beer made from wastewater.

That’s right — the group is actually planning to brew beer made from treated wastewater, and has gotten approval to serve it to the public from both the Oregon Health Authority and, as of last week, the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission.

Craft beer is a trend in America that’s simply not going away — according to the Brewer’s Association, 2014 was the first year in which craft beer earned a double-digit market volume share of 11%. Now, the craft beer market in the United States is worth about $14.3 billion.

According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, Hillsboro-based wastewater treatment company Clean Water Services has an advanced treatment process that can turn wastewater into drinkable water. The company seeks to prove the purity of its water by turning it into beer.

A homebrewing group, the Oregon Brew Crew, would use the water in its brewing process. The beer would not be sold in a brewery, but served at special events.

Though skepticism about the safety of the beer is obvious — it doesn’t seem safe to drink what was one wastewater — the Oregon Health Authority concluded that “the high quality of the treated water, additional microbial reduction in the brewing process, and a low health risk overall” contribute to the beer’s safety.

Clean Water Services spokesman Mark Jockers says that the water purification company wants to help people reevaluate what they think about wastewater and to play a role in expanding the use of recycled water in Oregon.

Turning the wastewater into craft beer isn’t a bad way to go about it; craft beer is a big business in Oregon. The Oregonian┬áreports that one in five brewers on the Brewer’s Association Top 50 Craft Brewers of 2014 list is based in Oregon.

Furthermore, the state leads the country in the number of dollars spent on craft beer, and brewers in Oregon produced more than 1.64 million barrels of beer last year, which is about a 17% increase from the year before.

It might be weird, but if there’s anywhere to emphasize the importance of recycling water and using a specially-brewed beer to do it, Portland is it.