While some of us expert IPA drinkers may think that certain beers taste like urine (looking at you, Keystone Light), Belgian scientists are now using actual urine to make beer. A group of researchers from the University of Ghent have invented a device that uses solar energy to turn urine into water, which is then turned into beer. They used this “sewer-to-brewer” method at a music and arts festival in Belgium, collecting urine from festivalgoers. Urine which, let’s be honest, probably started out as beer. Using the slogan #PeeForScience, they collected around 250 gallons of pee, which they plan to turn into one of Belgium’s finest exports: Beer.
The process is completely solar-powered, heating the urine in a tank before it passes through a membrane, separating water from nutrients. Since the process only uses solar energy, this is definitely the greenest way to get drunk. We’re hoping the bottles they use will be recycled, too, so we can get our buzz on while simultaneously saving the environment.
This isn’t the first time urine has been used in beer production. Last year, a music festival in Denmark collected urine to use as fertilizer for barley, which everyone knows is the magic ingredient in beer. In Portland, Oregon, a wastewater treatment company and a group of home brewers are partnering up to make beer from recycled toilet water. Portland’s Clean Water Services wants to demonstrate how efficient their system is for turning sewage into drinkable water, collaborating with the brewers to turn the water into craft beer. Current government regulations are preventing this from actually happening, even though the “toilet to tap” movement is especially gaining traction in drought-prone areas like Wichita Falls, Texas.
Regulations were evidently less restricting in San Francisco, where Half Moon Bay Brewing Company released a version of their IPA made with “greywater”—water that’s been purified after it was used in sinks and showers. Using greywater had no effect on the flavor of the beer, and the brewing company hopes to use this IPA to draw attention to the possibilities and safety of recycled water—even though they can’t sell it commercially yet.
The goal of this sewer-brewer project is to install the device in developing countries and rural areas so people will have access to clean drinking water. This specially designed membrane can also recover fertilizer from the urine, potentially a valuable asset for rural farmers. I’m guessing some super serious survivalists will be all over this contraption, too.
Though beer production doesn’t seem like the ultimate goal for our Belgian friends, these mad scientists are clearly raising awareness about their energy-efficient model by appealing to man’s (only) universal love: Booze. These geeks certainly know a thing or two about good marketing. Until this stuff is available on tap, I’m sticking with Heineken.