Stone Brewing Co.’s latest sudsy creation earned a quick nickname: “Toilet to tap.”
That’s because the Escondido brewery’s new craft beer is made with treated wastewater.
The brave souls who taste-tested the Full Circle Pale Ale on Thursday were flush with excitement, calling the beer “delicious,” “hoppy” and “outstanding,” according to local media reports.
“It is fantastic,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer said after sampling it. “There’s no better way to highlight the purity of this water.”
Stone, the nation’s ninth largest brewer, produced five barrels of the beer using water trucked in from the city’s Pure Water demonstration plant in Miramar.
“Stone has a long history of sustainability,” said Chief Operating Officer Pat Tiernan, adding that he welcomed having a stable supply of recycled water for his beer production.
The goal of the city’s Pure Water program is to clean enough wastewater to provide one-third of its water supply in the future.
City officials hailed the beer as a milestone for its efforts, and some can’t wait for the recycled water to be made available to other breweries in the area.
Stone Brewing’s Steve Gonzalez admitted he was skeptical at first of creating a beer from the recycled water. But now?
“Among the pale ales that I’ve made, it’s probably in the top three,” Gonzalez, the company’s senior manager of brewing and innovation, told KGTV in San Diego.
Gonzalez called it a “clean-tasting beer” with “caramel notes, some tropical fruit notes,” noting that recycled water only needed a few salts to be perfect for brewing.
The brewery’s chief operating officer, Pat Tiernan, said changing sources of water — including the Colorado River — during California’s long drought challenged the brewery because they all required unique processing methods. He was open to the idea of having a stable supply of recycled water to use.
“This particular water will just help us not require so much natural water to come in and give us a more reliable source,” Tiernan told San Diego 6. “So for us to be able to re-use, that’s part of our mantra, that’s part of what we do.”
Shane Trussell, one of the people who taste-tested the beer last week, told KGTV he worried the beer would have an off taste, but his final verdict was “outstanding.”
Fellow beer fan Noelle Dorman also liked the taste.
“It’s a well-known brewery with a great reputation, so I don’t think you can really go wrong and it’s an important cause and I’m impressed. I really like it,” she told San Diego 6.
The Full Circle Pale Ale is not for sale yet, but the company hopes to make it available soon, KGTV reported.
Stone Brewing later wrote a blog post saying it was not happy with all of the news coverage – especially reports that centered on the idea of “toilet water.” But it was happy that the experiment was a success.
The beer was only made for a special event. Stone Brewing is not permitted to sell it in stores or at the brewery’s restaurant.
But other brewers around the country are taking notice.
Kevin Ryan created Service Brewing Company in the southeastern U.S. state of Georgia because he loved making beer for friends and family. They told him his beer was so good, he should go into the business. So he did.
“The southeast is always back-and-forth between drought and recovering from drought,” Ryan said. “As we can afford, we will try to be responsible consumers of that water. I think it’s great that somebody who’s established can use their platform to do the testing and demonstrate that you can make great beer with reclaimed water.”
Ben Cook started Hangar 24, a brewery in Redlands, California. One of Hangar 24’s well-known beers is a wheat beer made with locally grown oranges. He was glad that Stone Brewing’s experiment got attention.
“I have a biology background,” Cook said. “And water is water. It is H20, along with any minerals that are in it. I see no problem with it. But the public perception, because they don’t know that it’s just as clean as tap water, appears to be still pretty bad.”
Cook said if his customers better understood how clean reclaimed wastewater really is, he would have “no problem” brewing beer with that kind of water.
“If there’s something that’s better for the environment that we can afford to do, we always opt in,” Cook said.
Other American brewers have also experimented with reclaimed-water beer.
Researchers and brewers in the state of Arizona are working on a water-saving project. They received $250,000 to promote the use of reclaimed water. They are treating and using wastewater that will be used to make beer across the state this summer.
And last year, small brewers in Florida experimented with making beer from reclaimed water. They taste-tested their work at a large water-treatment conference.
Meanwhile, back at the sewer water beer tasting
Tiernan said changing sources of water during the long California drought posed challenges for his breweries because each required different processing. Water from the Colorado River, the state water project and the Carlsbad desalination plant has different properties, he noted.
The demo was part of the city’s ambitious, $3 billion project to get a third of its water from advanced recycling, with a goal of 30 million gallons a day by 2021.
City Councilman Chris Cate, whose district is home to most of San Diego’s craft breweries, said those businesses would welcome the recycled water and he hoped it could be made available sooner.
“There’s an opportunity for the city to actually get to the 30 million gallons a day sooner,” he said.
Gonzalez, Stone’s senior manager of brewing and innovation, said the recycled water needed only the addition of some salts to be perfect for brewing.
For the test, he brewed a “straightforward beer” with three malts and three different hops, including two exotic ones from New Zealand to add a “tropical final note.”