Czech brewery rolls out first wastewater beer

Photo: archive of Čížová brewery

A small brewery in the South Bohemian village of Čížová has produced the Czech Republic’s first beer made from recycled, purified wastewater. The water came from a Prague wastewater treatment plant and was processed by experts from the company Veolia. So far, the brewery has rolled out some 15 hectolitres of ‘sewer beer’ under the brand ERKO.

Photo: archive of Čížová brewery
The Czech Republic’s first wastewater beer was recently presented at the annual water management exhibition at Prague’s Letňany. The beer, called ERKO 12, is the result of a joint effort of the water company Veolia and a small brewery in Čížová.

Its head brewer, Martin Hrubeš, explains why he decided to take on the challenge of making the country’s first wastewater beer:

“I know that somebody in the United States has already tried brewing beer from recycled water, so it was a very interesting challenge for me to be the first in the Czech Republic to try it. That is why we decided to brew this beer.”

The result is a typical Czech unpasteurised lager, which was made using Czech hops and malt as well as water from the Prague sewage treatment plant, which was processed using membrane technology and activated carbon.

Ondřej Beneš is the commercial director at Veolia, which runs the Prague water sewage treatment plant:

“We wanted to prove that by using the most appropriate membrane methods we can meet the strict norms set by the health authorities. This is evidence that we are able to make potable water out of wastewater.”

According to Mr Beneš, many breweries are already using similar technologies for treating water, but none of them uses water that has come directly from a wastewater plant. He says that while it is certainly cheaper to use a groundwater source directly in the brewery, the experiment has nevertheless fulfilled its purpose.

“I think that the proof of good quality was that the taste of the beer is no different from the taste of the classical lager. I also think it helped to break this sort of mental barrier some people have that we cannot drink what has already been used. In reality we often use potable water that was used before and no one has a problem with that.

Illustrative photo: Louis-F. Stahl,  CC BY-SA 3.0 de
“But if you have a label on a product saying that it was made from recycled water, it puts some people off. We decided to go for beer because as you probably know, Czechs are the biggest European producers of beer. Therefore we aimed at beer, instead of water.”

According to Mr Beneš, the issue of using recycled wastewater is becoming more and more topical due to the increasingly frequent and intense droughts, which are leading to a decline of groundwater levels.

Meanwhile the Čížov brewery in South Bohemia wants to continue producing its ‘sewer beer’, albeit only for special occasions.