California craft brewers are looking for innovative ways to be more sustainable.
One challenge is how to use less water in a state plagued by drought.
But at last weekend’s statewide craft beer summit in Sacramento, brewers were discussing how recycled water may be the answer — that is, if consumers and regulators are ready for it.
The crew from Santa Rosa's Seismic Brewing Company was serving up samples of it’s Pure Water Pils, a beer made using recycled water.
Pilsner is one of the lighter styles of beer — and chosen for this batch to prove nothing is being obscured by strong hops or malts.
Seismic's Pat Delves says beer could serve as a good introduction to products made with reclaimed water. "What we wanted to do is kind of remove the 'ick' factor in peoples' heads and we thought beer is a really approachable means of doing that," Delves said.
However, using reclaimed industrial-process water is a regulatory gray area. Delves says they've reached out to state and federal agencies but haven't gotten solid answers on whether it's OK to sell their beer.
"I know of a few breweries — including ourselves — have gone as far as brewing with this water,” he said, “but no one has gone as far as selling it quite yet, and I think that's the next big hurdle here.”
Pat Fahey is a master cicerone, or beer taster, one of only a handful of people worldwide to hold the title. He says on the surface, there's no reason people should immediately turn their nose up at reclaimed water for brewing.
"If they're doing it well, you really shouldn't notice a discernable flavor difference,” Fahey said.
Currently, Seismic collects gray water used from washing tanks and the brew house.
When asked if breweries might one day feel OK using reclaimed sewer water, Delves says he believes it’s an option. “I think we're not that far out from it, and when you really get down to it, all water is recycled to some degree," he said.