A wastewater engineer from Milwaukee has brewed a beer made from wastewater and aptly named “Activated Sludge Wheat Ale”, but will people drink it?
To make the ‘Sludge’ the poopy water engineer used water that is described as ‘clean’, just not ‘clean enough’ for drinking. So how’d this water make its way into a beer and then into the bellies of a panel of brewing experts? As it turns out “No pathogen known to man that can grow in beer,” according to Lakefront Brewery president Russ Klisch (who spoke very highly about the poopy beer).
In a world where every craft brewery in the nation is trying to put out a product that’ll set them apart from the other tens of thousands of breweries it’s hard to stand out. But Theera Ratarasarn, the waste water engineer behind this unique brew knew he had both the knowledge to brew a beer that would stand apart form the rest, and access to the materials to get it made.
Kathy Flanigan of Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel reports:
The name: Activated Sludge. The label: That is a radiation symbol. The ingredients: It’s brewed with purified Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District wastewater plant effluent.
But it tastes great.
To Ratarasarn, making beer with water that hasn’t gone through the final cleaning process was a mission.
“I wanted to get people talking,” he said “There’s a potential use for what we discharge into lakes and streams.”
It’s a simple enough process — mash, boil, add hops, cool, add yeast and ferment. Unless the water is suspect. Then add a half-dozen more steps.
Ratarasarn chlorinated, dechlorinated, filtered, distilled, tested and added nutrients to the water before beginning to make 5 gallons of Activated Sludge, a wheat ale with 5.15% alcohol by volume.
After all those steps, Ratarasarn wasn’t worried about the beer’s safety. Neither was a taste panel at Lakefront Brewery, where Activated Sludge went head-to-head with Lakefront Wheat Monkey.
Panel members smelled their sip of beer. They cracked wise.
“It looks like a good urine sample,” said John Rinson.
Then they tasted.
“No pathogen known to man that can grow in beer,” said brewery president Russ Klisch, who praised Ratarasarn’s Activated Sludge for its golden color. His down note was the beer’s carbonation and lack of body.
Another taster, Mitchel De Santis, graded the beer a 7 on a 10-point scale, giving Ratarasarn two points for creativity. “It’s one of the better home brews I’ve ever had.”
He also has a sense of humor about it. A PowerPoint presentation Ratarasarn made illustrating the steps he took is themed “A little bit of me, a little bit of you.”
Ratarasarn chose to brew a wheat beer because he likes them and he’s made them before. He said he steered clear of darker beers such as porters or stouts “so people wouldn’t associate the beer with wastewater.”
The hard part, he said, is getting the water profile correct for each beer he brews. This one, with the substandard water, proved to be the most difficult. Ratarasarn wanted to send the treated MMSD water out for testing and requested the $200 test as a Christmas present.
Waste water beer? Waste water beer.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen beer made from poop water, as a few years ago some brewers got together to brew beer out of elephant dung (which sold out immediately), but that doesn’t mean this is a concept that’s going to be readily accepted worldwide.
So, would you bros taste the shit water beer? Can your mind get over the obstacle that you’re drinking water procured from poop? I think mine could, but I’ll only know once I get my hands on a few bottles of the “Activated Sludge Wheat Ale” and see if I have the stones to drink shit. Give me your answers down below on whether or not you think you could drink it, and if you think this beer is just hype or if it’s actually a cool concept.
For more on this project you can head on over the Journal Sentinel or to the Modern Farmer.