If someone tells you that their beer is poo, it’s probably best not to buy any. However, as one Scandinavian company has decided to prove, there might be more to crappy alcohol than immediately meets the eye. As unappetising as it might seem, Swedish brewery Nya Carnegiebryggeriet have managed to come up with a new pilsner made with 100% real sewage water. Getting shitfaced just took on a whole new meaning.
The product, christened “PU:REST”, is the result of an extensive collaboration between the Swedish brewery, beer giants Carlsberg and IVL - the Swedish environmental authority. Though the motivation for making something drinkable from human waste might not be immediately obvious, the goal of the project is to prove that beer can be made in a completely recyclable and sustainable way. With water shortage a growing issue on the global agenda, PU:REST might be one of the more inventive solutions to the problem.
In a joint press statement released earlier this year, head brewer Chris Thurgeson revealed, “As an environmentally conscious player in the food industry, we share the vision that producers and consumers must dare to think different to take care of earth’s resources.” Staffan Illipson of IVL added, “Ultimately, this comes down to beating the drum for sustainable water treatment, and for the value of fresh water."
As you might expect, the process of turning sewage into beer is pretty complicated. The water is first filtered through both traditional microbiological treatment and an ultrafiltration membrane - described by Forbes as “a Membrane Biological Reactor (MBR) for breaking down organic substances plus separating bacteria, microplastics and parasites”. Next, the water passes through a second “osmosis” membrane, which removes almost 100% of all chemical substances. An “activated carbon filter” acts as a backup to remove any unwanted organic matter, before the water is finally exposed to bacteria killing UV light.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the beer made with such carefully treated water would have something of a distinct taste. However, according to those that have tried it, the pilsner is incredibly impressive. Crystal clear, and complete with bready, grassy and citrus aromas, the beer delivers on the brewer’s objective of delivering a “a very clean, crisp taste, given the use of such a unique type of water.”
It would be easy, as many on social media already have, to make a mockery of the new “crap beer”, as it has been christened by beer drinkers in Sweden. However, the need for increased awareness of our water wastage makes this a more prescient product than you’d think. As Thurgeson put it at the time of the drink’s release, “We already have the technology to recycle water and achieve a result which is just as pure and safe as normal tap water, but most people are still sceptical about actual drinking purified wastewater… This is a creative and accessible way of highlighting sustainable water management and the value of clean water.” For anyone feeling sceptical, the signs are ominous. It may sound gross, but we could be looking at the future.