NEWBrew beer made with recycled toilet water has hit the supermarkets in Singapore

Brewerkz NEWBrew
Named NEWBrew, the beverage is crafted with NEWater, a Singaporean brand of drinking water recycled from sewage. Photo credit: Brewerkz

A beer made with recycled toilet water - yes, water that flows from your toilet's cistern when you flush - has hit the market in Singapore. 

The south-east Asian nation's water agency, the Public Utilities Board (PUB), teamed up with award-winning local craft brewery Brewerkz to produce the drink, which was first unveiled at a conference in 2018 and went on sale in supermarkets and at Brewerkz outlets in April.

Speaking to Bloomberg, punter Chew Wei Lian, 58, said: "I seriously couldn't tell this was made of toilet water."

He added: "I don't mind having it if it was in the fridge. I mean, it tastes just like beer, and I like beer."

Named NEWBrew, the beverage is crafted with NEWater, a Singaporean brand of drinking water recycled from sewage. According to PUB, NEWater is high-grade reclaimed water produced from treated used water that is further purified using advanced membrane technologies and ultra-violet disinfection, removing contaminants and making it ultra-clean and safe to drink. The highly treated reclaimed wastewater is produced by PUB and has been in circulation since 2003 to improve the island's water security. 

In a statement, PUB said the launch of the beer, a blonde ale, is part of a mission to educate Singaporeans about the importance of recycling and using water sustainably. 

The concept of recycling sewage into drinking water has been gaining traction in recent years as concerns mount over the global supply of freshwater. According to the World Wildlife Fund, freshwater - the water we drink, bathe in and irrigate farm fields with - is incredibly rare. Only 3 percent of the world's water is freshwater, and two-thirds of that is tucked away in frozen glaciers or otherwise unavailable for use.

According to the WWF's estimates, 1.1 billion people lack access to water and 2.7 billion experience water scarcity at least one month a year. By 2025, two-thirds of the world's population may be facing water shortages. Inadequate sanitation is also a problem for 2.4 billion people who are exposed to diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, and other water-borne illnesses. 

However, the concept isn't entirely new. Other breweries have experimented with crafting beer out of recycled sewage in recent years, including Nya Carnegie Brewery in Stockholm, Sweden. The brewery partnered with Carlsberg, one of the world's leading brewery groups, and the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute to launch a pilsner made with purified sewage. Village Brewery in Canada also teamed up with researchers from the University of Calgary and Xylem - a US water technology company - to create their own take on the initiative. 

But not everyone is convinced by the initiative. As reported by Bloomberg, 22-year-old Singapore student Low Yu Chen pointed out that if they wanted a beer, a brew made with recycled toilet water probably wouldn't be their first pick. 

"There are many kinds of beers around," said Chen. "If I wanted a beer, I'd pick something made of normal water."

Others who have sampled NEWBrew said they found the ale was refreshing and light and perfect for Singapore's hot, tropical climate. 

"If you don't tell people it's made from wastewater, they probably won't know," said Grace Chen, 52, as reported by Bloomberg

Despite some reservations, the first batch of NEWBrew has already sold out on tap at Brewerkz restaurants and the company expects supermarket stocks will run out by the end of July. 

As per Bloomberg's report, the brewer said it would assess the market response before deciding whether to make another batch.   

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