The beer is called No Reservations.

No reservations because when Dark Sky Brewing Co.’s Nick Irvine heard about the opportunity to brew a beer that would promote the concept of purifying wastewater to make it safe for drinking, he had no hesitancy about jumping on board.

The opportunity is part of the AZ Pure Water Brew Challenge, a statewide initiative to enlist craft breweries to help spread education and awareness about new technologies and treatment processes that turn wastewater into purified drinking water.

Flagstaff’s Dark Sky Brewing, along with Historic Brewing Co. and Wanderlust Brewing Co. all agreed to participate in the challenge.

The process started about a month ago when more than two dozen participating breweries received water that originated in a nearby wastewater treatment plant, then went through a five-step treatment process to remove everything from bacteria and organic compounds, to pharmaceuticals, heavy metals and personal care products. The treatment system is housed in a remodeled shipping container hauled via semi truck across the state.

The breweries were free to brew up the beer of their choice with the water, then submit it to a final judging event on Sept. 9.

Historic, Dark Sky and Wanderlust also said they plan to put their Pure Water Brew Challenge brews on tap this week or next week, so Flagstaff beer drinkers can get their own taste of the final product.

Channah Rock, a water microbiologist at the University of Arizona who is leading public outreach for the Pure Water Brew Challenge, said there were several reasons to get brewers involved.

Brewers are inherently water quality specialists, because they pay such close attention to the water going into their beer and they are also great at talking to people, making them good ambassadors for the project, Rock says.

There was also the idea that talking about water treatment through a lens of craft beer would reach a broader audience.

“If I talk about beer, that’s going to tap into a whole other group of the population and put a spin on the potable reuse that might grab the attention of additional folks we might have missed if we were just talking about potable reuse,” Rock says.  

Nathan Friedman of Wanderlust lauded the idea of capitalizing on the popularity of craft beer to garner interest in the somewhat un-sexy topic of water treatment.

The challenge was also appealing for him because it connects to the bigger picture of water use and conservation, Friedman says.

“Water issues are always something that is on our mind in Arizona and the Southwest,” he says.

For its competition entry, Wanderlust came out with a Trappist-style trippel, a light and fruity, lightly hopped Belgian-style beer.

Historic brewed a standard IPA for its submission, brewer Zack Stoll says.  

And in the Dark Sky brewhouse, Irvine and co-owner Ryan Sandlin decided on a strawberry cobbler sour ale brewed with strawberries and cinnamon graham crackers.

A high school science teacher for nine years, Irvine says he was immediately sold on the Pure Water Brew Challenge and its goal of educating people beyond the simplistic “toilet to tap” moniker that has dogged the advanced treatment of wastewater for what is called direct potable reuse.

“The water we’re getting is better than what people are getting out of their tap,” Irvine says. “This is ridiculously pure water.”

Other brewers agreed that the multi-step treatment process combined with extensive water sampling involved in the AZ Pure Water Brew Challenge erased any concerns about the safety and purity of water they received.

In fact, the tests of the treated water analyze for more than 230 constituents—much more extensive than federal drinking water standards, which require monitoring of only 77 constituents, says Jeff Prevatt, the research and innovation manager at Pima County’s wastewater reclamation department, which is involved in the challenge. In Flagstaff, the water treatment truck did an entire test run at the beginning of August. Only after those tests of that water came back clear did the truck come back to produce water for the breweries.  

Friedman added that the brewing process itself also sterilizes the water because it involves both a high-alcohol environment and boiling of the wort.

While the brew challenge is a one-time pilot program, it also serves to foreshadow work by state environmental regulators to develop rules that will allow utilities to purify and then reuse wastewater for drinking water. The state’s Department of Environmental Quality came out with a draft rule in June and Flagstaff is studying the process as an option for its long term water supply plan.

Erin Young is the water resources manager with the city of Flagstaff, and helped deliver water to the breweries and spoke about how the brew challenge paves the way for a broader discussion about treating wastewater for drinking water reuse.

“What I like about this project is people can see that technology can do anything,” Young says.

To learn more, visit www.azpurewaterbrew.org

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