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The world’s first beer made from recycled water was invented in the Czech Republ
A typical brewery uses between 10 and 150 liters of water to make 1 single liter of beer. With water scarcity increasing, will we still have beer in the future? In the Czech Republic, an innovative brewery came up with a solution using recycled water.
Beer is the third most consumed drink in the world. But did you know that its production requires large amounts of water? Originally breweries used as much as 10 liters of water per one liter of beer, nowadays the modern technologies (supplied often by Veolia) enable to reduce this amout down to 3 litres. If we however take into account the production of barley and hops required for its manufacture, this total can rise up to 180 liters of water used per liter of beer! A significant amount of water when you bear in mind the risks of water shortage that many regions of Europe and the world are facing.
Brewers are taking stock of the issue at stake and a growing number of them are looking for solutions to preserve this precious resource, in particular by increasingly incorporating the circular economy into their production processes. One such example is a Czech microbrewery in Čížová, South Bohemia, which has launched a craft beer brewed using recycled wastewater. A first for the Czech Republic, which is one of the top beer-consuming countries. Christened ERKO, this beer is the fruit of cooperation with Veolia, whose areas of expertise include water management.
In concrete terms, Veolia recovers wastewater in a treatment plant in Prague and then treats it using own proprietary mobile membrane water reclamation unit,m supplied by Veolia design and build company Memsep. The principle? Ondřej Beneš, director of Memsep, standing behind the project explains “The treatment train comprises of classical coagulation, followed by ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis, where ultra-fine synthetic membranes serve as a filter that lets water pass through and retains suspended solids and other substances such as micro-organisms and viruses. The water is then filtered through granulated activated carbon and disinfected. The advantage of membrane technology is that the filtration does not need added chemicals and new types of membranes low energy consumption.”
The water is then transported to Čížová microbrewery, where it is used to brew ERKO beer. Thanks to wastewater reuse, 15 hectoliters of lager were produced in May 2019 and more continue to be produced as the interest of public and NGOs supporting the recycling schemes grows. Beyond the success of the production process, the results have exceeded the microbrewery’s expectations in terms of taste: “You simply can’t tell the difference between the beer made from recycled water and one produced in the normal way!” says a delighted Martin Hrubeš, head brewer at Čížová.
Raising public awareness and removing barriers
Through this project, Čížová microbrewery wants to raise public awareness about water-related issues, while popularizing the principles of the circular economy. Next to the aim to provide our ability to treat the recycled water up to the quality of drinking water for everyday use, the aim of the project was also to remove – often psychological – barriers to using recycled materials.
“We know that the river water used to produce drinking water almost entirely consists of wastewater,” states Čížová microbrewery. “However, it is difficult for us to drink water [from wastewater treatment plants], regardless of its quality. So we chose beer, our national drink, to break down these psychological barriers more easily.”
ERKO beer was revealed in May 2019 during an international Water fair VOD-KA 2019 in Prague. While it is the first experiment in reusing wastewater to produce beer in the Czech Republic, other breweries have already experimented with this process.
These include the American brewery Stone Brewing in San Diego with its Full Circle beer and PU:REST beer produced in Sweden. In the Czech Republic, on the strength of this initial success, Čížová microbrewery is planning to continue its beer production based on recycled wastewater together with VEOLIA under now renowed brand ERKO. Cheers!