In Denmark, pee collected from festivalgoers is being used to fertilize fields of barley grown for beer. Dubbed from "piss to pilsner," the concept makes perfect agricultural and environmental sense, despite the ick factor.
But the idea of drinking a beer made from barley that was fertilized with human urine seems downright palatable compared to the idea of drinking a beer made from water with human urine in it.
Mavericks Brewing Co. in California is living up to its name by making a beer that certainly doesn't conform to what most American's consider an acceptable ingredient: recycled wastewater. Of course, the wastewater is treated before it's used to brew an unorthodox version of Marverick's Tunnel Vission IPA. This version has earned the obvious nickname "I Pee A," according to SFGate.
Gross? Sure. A health risk? No.
Wastewater, even wastewater that contains human waste, is potable when treated correctly. It is increasingly becoming an option to supplement freshwater supplies where they are scarce, including the regions in the West that are experiencing long-running drought conditions.
The prospect of treating sewer water and redirecting it back into faucets is considered by many the future of California. Such recycling, which involves treating what washes down the drain until it is pure, would save hundreds of billions of gallons that is now dumped into the Pacific Ocean annually.
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The recycled beer project was the idea of Russ Drinker of Sustainable Silicon Valley. After spending time in Singapore and Saudi Arabia and observing how those countries recycle almost all of their wastewater, he wanted to show people back in the States that it's efficient. He also wanted to show that we're "out of the loop" on the technology. He teamed up with Mavericks and sourced wastewater from the "flow from sinks, showers and washing machines" at a NASA facility, an agency that is not unfamiliar with recycling wastewater into drinkable water.
In a blind tasting of the traditional Tunnel Vission IPA and the wastewater version of the Tunnel Vission, the panel of five judges "couldn’t tell one potation from the other."
The world does not have endless resources, and that truth is becoming clear. We're going to accept the fact that we need to get past the ick factor of food and drink made with ingredients that have been culturally unpalatable until now — whether it's beverages made from wastewater or foods made with edible bugs for their protein.
We're also going to have change laws that were made before technology made it possible to make wastewater safe to drink. In California where this beer is made, it's illegal for recycled water to be sent through taps or for products made with treated wastewater to be sold. There is currently legislation being introduced in California to change the wastewater laws. Until they are passed, The "i Pee A" can't be sold, but it can be used in free tastings.