Sewage Brewage

Oregon is known for its creative microbrews. Now it may be known for sewage brewage.

Oregon is known for its creative microbrews. Now it may be known for sewage brewage.

Oregon is known for its creative microbrews. Now it may be known for sewage brewage.

Clean Water Services (CWS), Washington County's wastewater and stormwater utility, wants to stage a competition this summer for brew-masters using water coming directly from its water treatment plant pipes.

Coors touts Rocky Mountain spring water as the source for its beer, but brew-masters in the CWS competition will work with water some say has questionable purity. However, CWS spokesman Mark Jockers says, the water undergoes extensive high-purification treatment and "is the cleanest water on the planet." 

A cold beer on a sunny summer day is reason enough to set up a brewing kettle, but Jockers says the friendly competition is intended to demonstrate there is life for sewer water after treatment. If people will drink it, then they will be comfortable with many other uses, which in turn can conserve precious water resources. 

Clean Water Services is not your typical wastewater utility. It is sponsoring a program called Tree for All with the goal of planting 1 million native trees and shrubs in a single planting season. A CWS insider said the program may miss its goal and wind up planting closer to 2 million trees and shrubs. This is not the kind of "failure" most people identify with government.

The utility mines its wastewater streams to extract minerals and nutrients that, through a patented process, it turns into what it calls a stream-friendly fertilizer. CWS is restoring a large wetland adjacent to its Forest Grove wastewater treatment plant to expand its capacity with what it calls green infrastructure. 

So making beer at the tap end of a sewage treatment plant pipe doesn't seem all that out of character.

According to press reports, at least 12 home brew-masters have signed up for the CWS competition. Home brewer Jeremy Landers told Keely Chalmers of KGW-TV that he is looking forward to the opportunity to use water purer than what he can get out of the faucet in his house.

More pristine water, Landers says, gives brewers more latitude of what to add to create a unique beer flavor. The taste, he explains, comes totally from the brewer's creativity, not the DNA of the water in the beer.

Faint-hearted folks may turn up their nose for so-called sewage brewage. But a lot of people will be eager to stick their noses into a pint.