“NEWBrew” is no ordinary beer. The new Singaporean blond ale is made with recycled sewage.
The alcoholic beverage is a collaboration between the Singaporean Public Utilities Board (PUB) and local craft beer brewery Brewerkz.
First unveiled at a water conference in 2018, NEWBrew in April went on sale in supermarkets and at Brewerkz outlets.
“I seriously couldn’t tell this was made of toilet water,” said Chew Wei Lian, 58, who had purchased the beer from a supermarket to try after hearing about it. “I don’t mind having it if it was in the fridge. I mean, it tastes just like beer, and I like beer.”
NEWBrew uses NEWater, Singapore’s brand of drinking water recycled from sewage, which in 2003 first flowed from treatment plants to improve the city-state’s water security.
The PUB said that the new beer is part of an effort to educate Singaporeans on the importance of sustainable water use and recycling.
The idea of processing sewage into drinking water, once largely resisted, has been gaining support in the past decade as the world’s supply of fresh water is increasingly under stress.
The WWF estimates that 2.7 billion people find water scarce for at least one month a year.
Advanced economies such as Israel and Singapore that have limited fresh water resources have already incorporated the technology into their supplies.
Los Angeles and London are examining plans to follow suit.
Singapore’s NEWater is made by disinfecting sewage with ultraviolet light and passing it through advanced membranes to remove contaminant particles.
Key to expanding the technology is to persuade the public that once the water has been processed, it is just water.
“NEWater perfectly suits brewing because it tastes neutral,” Brewerkz head brewer Mitch Gribov said. “The mineral profile of water plays a key role in chemical reactions during brewing.”
Breweries elsewhere have also made beer with recycled sewage.
Stockholm-based Nya Carnegie Brewery partnered with brewing giant Carlsberg and the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute to launch a pilsner made with purified sewage, while Village Brewery in Canada teamed up with researchers from the University of Calgary and US water technology company Xylem to roll out their own version.
However, not everyone is convinced.
“There are many kinds of beers around,” said Low Yu Chen, a 22-year-old student from Singapore. “If I wanted a beer, I’d pick something made of normal water.”
Others who have sampled NEWBrew say they find that it is a refreshing, light-tasting ale that is perfect for Singapore’s tropical climate.
“If you don’t tell people it’s made from waste water, they probably won’t know,” said Grace Chen, 52, after sampling the ale.
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