The alcoholic beverage is a collaboration between the country’s national water agency, PUB, and the local Brewerkz craft brewery. First presented at a water conference in 2018, NEWBrew went on sale in Brewerkz supermarkets and outlets in April.
“I really wouldn’t know it was made from toilet water,” said Chew Wei Lian, 58, who had bought the beer at a supermarket to try it out after learning about it. “I don’t mind having it in the fridge. I mean, it tastes like beer, and I like beer. “
NEWBrew uses NEWater, Singapore’s brand of recycled wastewater drinking water, which first came out of treatment plants in 2003 to improve the island’s water safety. PUB says the new beer is part of an effort to educate Singaporeans about the importance of sustainable water use and recycling.
The idea of processing wastewater into drinking water, which was previously largely resisted, has been gaining support in the last decade as the global supply of fresh water is increasingly stressed. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 2.7 billion people find water scarce for at least a month a year.
Advanced economies such as Israel and Singapore that have limited freshwater resources have already incorporated the technology into their supplies. Cities like Los Angeles and London are examining plans to follow suit.
Singapore’s NEWater is made by disinfecting wastewater with ultraviolet light and passing the liquid through advanced membranes to remove contaminant particles.
The key to expanding technology is to convince the public that once water has been processed, it is just water.
“NEWater adapts perfectly to beer because it has a neutral taste,” said Mitch Gribov, Brewerkz’s head of beer. “The mineral profile of water plays a key role in chemical reactions during brewing.”
Breweries elsewhere have also made beer with recycled wastewater. Stockholm-based Nya Carnegie Brewery partnered with brewing giant Carlsberg and the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute to launch a pilsner made from purified wastewater, while Village Brewery in Canada partnered with University researchers of Calgary and the American water technology company Xylem to launch their own version.
Not everyone is convinced. “There are many types of beers around,” said Singapore student Low Yu Chen, 22. “If I wanted a beer, I would choose something made of plain water.”
But others who have tried NEWBrew say they find it to be a refreshing, light-tasting beer that is perfect for Singapore’s tropical climate.
“If you don’t tell people it’s made from wastewater, they probably won’t know,” Grace Chen, 52, said after tasting the beer.
However, if you are in Singapore and want to try it for yourself, you may need to be quick. The first batch of NEWBrew is already sold out at Brewerkz restaurants and the company expects supermarket stocks to run out by the end of July. The brewery said it will evaluate the market response before deciding whether to make another batch.