“NEWBrew” is no ordinary beer. The new Singaporean blond beer is made with recycled waste water.
The alcoholic beverage is a collaboration between the country’s national water agency, PUB, and the local craft brewery Brewerz. NEWBrew was first unveiled at a water conference in 2018 and went on sale in supermarkets and Brewerz stores in April.
“I really couldn’t tell this was made from toilet water,” says Chew Wei Lian, 58, who bought the beer from a grocery store to try after hearing about it. “I don’t mind having it 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, first flowing from treatment plants in 2003, to improve the island’s water safety. PUB says the new beer is part of an effort to educate Singaporeans about the importance of sustainable water use and recycling.
The idea of processing sewage into drinking water, which was once widely opposed, has gained increasing support over the past ten years as the world’s supply of fresh water comes under increasing pressure. The World Wildlife Fund 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 freshwater supplies have already incorporated the technology into their stocks. Cities like Los Angeles and London are exploring plans to follow suit.
Singapore’s NEWater is made by disinfecting wastewater with ultraviolet light and passing the liquid through advanced membranes to remove contaminant particles.
The key to expanding the technology is to convince the public that once the water is processed, it’s just water.
“NEWater is a perfect match for brewing because it tastes neutral,” says Brewerz head brewer Mitch Gribov. “The mineral profile of water plays a key role in chemical reactions during brewing.”
Breweries elsewhere have also made beer using recycled wastewater. Stockholm-based Nya Carnegie Brewery teamed up with brewing giant Carlsberg and IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute to launch a lager made with treated wastewater, while Village Brewery in Canada teamed up with researchers from the University of Calgary and US water technology company Xylem to develop their own version.
Not everyone is convinced. “There are many kinds of beer,” says 22-year-old Singaporean student Low Yu Chen. “If I wanted a beer, I’d choose something plain water.”
But others who have tasted NEWBrew say they think it’s a refreshing, light-tasting beer that’s perfect for Singapore’s tropical climate.
“If you don’t tell people it’s made from sewage, they probably won’t know,” said Grace Chen, 52, after tasting the beer.
But if you’re in Singapore and want to taste it for yourself, you might have to be quick. The first batch of NEWBrew has already sold out on tap at Brewerz restaurants and the company expects stocks at supermarkets to run out by the end of July. The brewer said it will assess the market’s response before deciding whether to make another batch.
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