Bottoms up This German beer is made from recycled wastewater

Reuse Brew is a classic German lager with a twist — it's made from recycled wastewater. 

The beer is the result of a tie-up between the south German city of Weissenburg, American water tech company Xylem, and the Technical University of Munich (TUM). Specifically, TUM's Brewery and Beverage Technology department (why didn't I study there?!). 

While the idea of a sewage brew might be hard to swallow, Xylem ensures us that all the bad stuff is filtered out before the malt, hops, and yeast are added. 

First a machine injects ozone into the wastewater. Then the sludge is blasted by UV radiation and bombed with hydrogen peroxide pellets. Finally, it gets squeezed through various carbon and nano filters.

This process removes 99.999% of all chemicals and contaminants. The end result is clean, fresh water that you can use to drink, water your plants, or…make beer.

The Reuse brew will be available for tasting in Munich this month. Credit: Xylem

Reuse Brew is a Bavarian Helles — a traditional German pale lager beer. “It has a pleasant freshness that is complemented by a slight malty sweetness and a subtle bitter note,” Xylem's Marlies Poppe tells TNW. 

“Reuse Brew isn't just a beverage; it's a conversation starter, sparking discussions about water conservation, resource efficiency, and the endless possibilities of sustainable brewing practices.”

Tackling water scarcity one beer at a time 

While this might sound radical, turning wastewater into tap water is nothing out of the ordinary. NASA astronauts turn their pee into water to prevent the need for further resupply missions. Stricken by drought, California even approved its first standards for turning sewage into drinking water last year. 

If you think about it, we've probably all drunk wastewater at some point in our lives.

When you flush, your waste goes down a pipe to a treatment works. Here it is purified and then discharged into a river or lake. Eventually this very same water gets pumped back into a well for drinking once more.

Nevertheless, most people don't think of it that way. The “yuck” factor of “toilet-to-tap” has prevented widespread adoption of wastewater recycling. Until now.  

“The source of water should not determine its value, but rather its safety and quality,” said Professor Jörg E. Drewes of TUM. 

Demand for water is higher than ever. But climate change is bringing worse droughts and extreme weather events that are disrupting supply. In the future, recycling wastewater may become the norm. 

If you'd like to crack open a Reuse Brew yourself, Xylem will be serving the beer at the upcoming IFAT event in Munich, which runs from May 13 to 17. Cheers!

Update (09:45AM CET, May 8, 2024):