Canadian Brewery Turns Wastewater Into Beer

Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets (ACWA) has partnered with Village Brewery and Xylem Inc. to brew Alberta’s first beer made with reused water. Christine O’Grady is the ACWA employee who led this project, and Jeremy McLaughlin is the Brewmaster from Village Brewery.

By: Briana Doyle

It’s one thing to turn lemons into lemonade, but will customers buy turning wastewater into beer?  On August 22, Village Brewery released a blonde ale produced in collaboration with University of Calgary researchers and the U.S.-based water technology company, Xy-lem, to create a limited-edition ale from water sourced by a Bow River wastewater treatment plant. The purpose of the project was to address water scarcity by proving that “dirty” water can be safely purified for drinking purposes. 

  The beer’s launch was initially pegged for March 22, which is U.N. World Water Day, but was delayed due to COVID-19.

  “There’s a mental hurdle to get over of how inherently gross this could be,” said Jere-my McLaughlin, head brewer at Village Brewery. “But we know that this water is safe, we know that this beer is safe, and we stand by our process.”

  Before brewing, the water was tested by Alberta Health Services to ensure it met pro-vincial quality standards for drinking water. The partially treated water was purified us-ing ultrafiltration, ozone, ultraviolet light and reverse osmosis. 

  “This beer shows that water reuse can be a safe and important part of our sustainable future,” said Christine O’Grady, program co-ordinator at Advancing Canadian Water Assets, another key partner in the project. “Wastewater can be treated using advanced treatment technology, making it into a reliable and safe water supply for many uses.”

  ACWA is a unique test bed and research facility where researchers, municipalities and industry professionals collaborate to improve wastewater treatment and monitoring technologies. It is a partnership between the University of Calgary and the city of Cal-gary.

   Reusing wastewater where possible is a practical solution to improve sustainability of our freshwater resources, O’Grady said, because it can reduce the amount of freshwa-ter needed for human consumption, lowering the demand for freshwater sourced from sensitive ecosystems.

  “AHS was happy to be part of this project to help develop a water safety plan and en-sure the water met drinking water standards,” said Jessica Popadynetz, AHS public health inspector. “With the right measures in place, alternative water sources such as wastewater, grey water, rooftop collected rainwater and stormwater can be made safe for many potable and non-potable end uses.”

  Xylem has been involved in similar projects to explore potable water reuse in the pro-duction of beer, wine and spirits throughout Europe and the U.S. In 2019, they part-nered with the city of Manchester, Heineken’s Manchester brewery, and the Manches-ter City Football Club to produce “Raining Champions,” a limited-edition beer brewed with purified rainwater collected from the rooftop of Manchester city’s Etihad Stadium.

  The company was also involved in the Pure Water Brew competition in Oregon last year, which challenged local homebrewers to create the best beer possible using sew-er water from Clean Water Services’ Durham treatment facility in Tigard, Oregon. The water was run through an additional high purity water treatment system. Brewers were then able to use the high-purity water, along with selected minerals, to custom-tune the water in order to modify the flavors of their beer.

  “Water scarcity continues to be a global challenge as populations keep growing,” said Albert Cho, vice-president and general manager of Xylem Inc. “Innovation and reuse are essential parts of the solution. Xylem is proud to partner with Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets and Village Brewery in Calgary to demonstrate how we can all make this happen together. And we’re excited to try the beer!”

Upstart Alberta Brewery Takes the Crown in 2020 Canadian Brewing Awards; Quebec-Made Gluten-Free Red Wins Beer of the Year

  The verdict is in: Canada’s best brewery in 2020 is a three-and-a-half-year-old brewery in Calgary.

  Common Crown Brewing Company took top honors at the Canadian Brewery Awards, an annual competition that judges Canadian-made beer based on blind tastings from certified judges. The competition is open to domestic breweries of any size from across the country.

  In addition to winning Brewery of the Year based on the strength of the beers submit-ted, Common Crown was also awarded three gold medals for specific beers: the Ploughman Wheat Ale in the North American-style Wheat category, Andy’s Wee Heavy Scottish Ale in the Scotch Ale category, and Coppersmith Brown Ale in the Brown Ale category.

  The prize for Beer of the Year, however, went to Montreal, QC’s Brasseurs Sans Gluten for its chestnut-infused Glutenberg Red. The brewery’s Glutenberg brand, which launched in 2011, is not just a Canadian phenomenon; the company said half of all production is exported to the United States. 

  In addition to the company’s flagship blonde, pale ale and red beers, the Glutenberg line also includes some more unusual varieties, including a gose, stouts and a double IPA.

  To achieve a 100% gluten-free beer, the company brews strictly with gluten-free grains such as millet, buckwheat, corn, quinoa and amaranth, sourced primarily from farmers at nearby Ferme Sans Gluten. After brew day, spent grain is returned to the same farm, where it is used as compost in the millet and buckwheat fields that supply the brewery.

  Sales at Canadian microbreweries across the country were hit hard this year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the whole country went into a months-long lockdown, and Common Crown was no exception.

  Co-founder Damon Moreau told Global News that being able to quickly pivot to home delivery when the pandemic hit helped “keep the lights on” when on-premise sales at the brewery and local restaurants and bars plummeted during confinement.

B.C. Brewery’s Popular Charity Program Returns After Pan-Demic Pause

  In September, British Columbia’s Fernie Brewing announced the return of its popular fundraising program for local charities.

  The brewery’s established Cheers for Charity program, in which a portion of sales from flights in the tasting room is given to a different local charity each month, was put on ice during the spring quarantine.

  Although the taproom has now reopened, tasting flights are still not permitted by local health order. Cheers for Charity will return in a slightly different format. One of the brewery’s 12 beers will now be selected as a “featured beer,” and proceeds of all sales of that brew will be given to the charity of the month.

  Since it launched in December 2013, Cheers for Charity has raised more than $150,000 for local charities, groups and clubs. The program is designed to support Fernie-based community groups.

  Past beneficiaries have included the Old Type Music Society bluegrass appreciation group, Fernie Friends of Refugees, WildSafe B.C., wildfire relief efforts and more. September sales will contribute to a fundraising effort for a new ultrasound service at the local hospital.