Oct 4, 2022 - News

O.H.S.O. and other AZ breweries are making beer with recycled water

A man smiling next to a large water tank with buckets of wheat in the foreground.

O.H.S.O. brewmaster Bret Waters shows off one of his water tanks. Photo: Jessica Boehm/Axios

Arizona's craft beer scene is booming, which most of us agree is a great thing.

  • Yes, but: You need water to make beer, and that's not something we have a lot of in the Valley.

What's happening: Enter Scottsdale. The city's water department recaptures the water that goes down our pipes, purifies it and gives it to breweries to recycle it into yummy brews.

  • City officials says Scottsdale is one of only three in the country that have a permit to reuse water in this way. They say the other cities are in California and Texas but didn't specify them.

What you're thinking: We know. There is an immediate "yuck" reaction when you think about drinking the water you use to bathe, wash dishes and, well, flush the toilet.

  • Scottsdale's water experts promise us everything icky is removed, and they say it's actually more pure than bottled water by the time it arrives at the breweries.

What they're saying: "We're trying to get more people used to the idea of recycled water because, with the drought and the Colorado River shortage, this is a new alternative water source that we will be using in the future," Scottsdale Water's Valerie Schneider tells us.

  • She says the city hopes using it in beer helps to normalize the recycled product because, "Beer's delicious. Everybody wants to drink beer." Amen.

Try it yourself: Nine local breweries are using Scottsdale's recycled water to whip up a few kegs for the city's One Water Brewing Showcase at Canal Convergence.

  • Check it out on Nov. 4 and 5, from 6 to 10pm.

Zoom in: O.H.S.O brewmaster Bret Waters (great last name for this story) let us stop by yesterday as he prepared to brew his recycled water beer.

  • Waters says the H2O is so pure that he has to add calcium sulfate and phosphoric acid to make it interact with the hops and malt properly.
  • "I don't think people realize what goes into creating water to make beer. You don't just turn the tap on and make beer," he says.
  • He describes the beer he's creating for the showcase as a "hoppy pale ale," though he's using a pilsner malt and a Kolsch-style yeast strain, which should make it nice and smooth.

1 sustainability thing: Waters says O.H.S.O's commitment to preservation goes beyond using Scottsdale's recycled water.

  • He said O.H.S.O. rebuilt its brewery about two years ago to create a closed-loop system that allows him to reuse water during the brewing process.
  • It cut usage by 75%.

What's next: State law doesn't yet allow for widespread distribution of recycled water for drinking purposes, but Schneider says Scottsdale is hopeful that will change in the near future.

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