Singapore’s national water agency, PUB, has collaborated with the award-winning local craft brewery Brewerkz to launch NEWBrew, a blond ale made with recycled sewage. First unveiled at a water conference in 2018, the beverage finally went on sale in supermarkets and at Brewerkz outlets in April 2022.
The NEWBrew is made of NEWater, the country’s brand of “ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water.” It is made by disinfecting sewage with ultraviolet light and passing the liquid through advanced membranes to remove contaminant particles. Initially introduced as a means to cushion Singapore’s water supply against dry weather and move the country towards water sustainability, the process now plays a part in something more controversial, let’s say. In fact, PUB itself says the beer is part of an effort to educate Singaporeans on the importance of sustainable water use and recycling.
And it could potentially prove successful, according to some of the feedback Bloomberg has been reporting from recent customers. “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.”
According to Brewerkz, it is a “highly quaffable beer” that is suitable for Singapore’s tropical climate, “with a smooth, toasted honey-like aftertaste.” 95 per cent of the tropical blonde ale is made out of NEWater, using “the finest ingredients, such as premium German barley malts, aromatic Citra and Calypso hops, as well as kveik, a highly-sought-after strain of farm-house yeast from Norway.” Sounds very hipster-ish if you ask me.
“NEWater perfectly suits brewing because it tastes neutral,” said Mitch Gribov, Brewerkz’s head brewer. “The mineral profile of water plays a key role in chemical reactions during brewing.”
While those behind the one-of-a-kind brew insist that it is a testament that “sustainability can be delicious,” people on social media are not quite so sure. That being said, the idea of processing sewage into drinking water—although once largely resisted—has been gaining support in the past decade as the world’s supply of fresh water has increasingly been under stress.
As stated by Bloomberg, “Advanced economies such as Israel and Singapore that have limited fresh water resources have already incorporated the technology into their supplies. Cities such as Los Angeles and London are examining plans to follow suit.”
And it’s not only Brewerkz that figured out the potential in using one of life’s finest joys to change people’s opinion on sewage water. Stockholm-based Nya Carnegie brewery partnered with Carlsberg and the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute to launch PU:REST, a pilsner made of purified sewage. Meanwhile in Canada, Village Brewery teamed up with researchers from the University of Calgary and water technology company Xylem to roll out its own version.
If you now feel convinced enough that you’d happily try the NEWBrew if you ever went to Singapore, don’t get too excited because the first batch has already sold out on tap at Brewerkz restaurants—with the company expecting stocks at supermarkets to run out by the end of July. The brewer also revealed it will assess the market response before deciding whether to make another batch.
As for you who still gag (and not in a good way) at the idea of drinking beer made from sewage water that was once running in underground pipes, your time will come. Until then, enjoy some of the online reactions shared by your fellow sceptics: