Brewers and beer lovers gathered in Hillsboro this weekend for an unusual competition. They judged 16 homebrews made, in part, out of purified sewer water.
The judges poured beer from unmarked bottles into little cups. They gave each one a good sniff and a gulp.
It can take more than 5 gallons of water to brew a single gallon of beer. Art Larrance, founder of Cascade Brewing and the Oregon Brewers Festival, was among the judges. He said using recycled water could help the industry become more sustainable.
“In California, craft brewers are trucking their water in because of the water shortage in California. So, this is a real, real issue,” he said.
Clean Water Services, the Washington County wastewater utility that serves Beaverton and Hillsboro, said it started the competition to make people less squeamish about purified wastewater.
The beers in the competition were made with water taken from the Tualatin River, just downstream from the city’s treatment plant. The river there contains about 30 percent treated wastewater.
Clean Water Services purified the water for the brewers by running it through filters and treating it with oxidation and UV light.
The winning homebrew was a Belgian ale crafted by Ted Assur, the president of home brewing group the Oregon Brew Crew.
Clean Water Services had hoped to give the homebrewers a little wastewater effluent that had been treated with the high purity process. But Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality bars wastewater effluent from being used in products for human consumption.
Clean Water Services Development Director Mark Poling says the agency has a recycling program that sells treated wastewater for irrigating golf courses and ballparks. He’s hoping to expand the program and develop new uses for treated wastewater.