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Why we're using beer to tell the story of metro Phoenix's water future

By Joanna Allhands, Arizona Republic,


Opinion: Recycled water is no longer a 'someday' proposition for metro Phoenix. We're brewing a beer to help talk about this paradigm shift.

Arizona Republic

Beer and recycled water.

It probably sounds weird that I’m eager to work with what some folks erroneously call “toilet to tap.”

But the water we’ll be using is cleaner than the fancy bottled water some folks buy.

And it’s a renewable supply. Something metro Phoenix certainly could put to good use.

Why brewers love recycled water

Brewers have known this for years, which is why they love using recycled water in brews.

Quality beer requires ultra-clean water — a blank canvas that can be molded and shaped to fit the flavor and style of beer they’re brewing.

Getting tap water into useable shape for a brew requires a lot of energy and often results in a lot of water lost to the filtering process.

It’s so much better to use ultra-clean water out of the gate.

That brings me back to Sept. 30, when The Arizona Republic teams up with Desert Monks Brewing in Gilbert to brew a pale ale with recycled water.

The beer will be part of the One Water Brewing Showcase on Nov. 3-4, an annual fest that attracts some of metro Phoenix’s best microbrewers.

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The point of the event is to get people excited — or at least less leery — about the thought of drinking water that’s been recycled.

Or treated by “advanced water purification,” as the state now calls the process.

But people still get weirded out about it — even if all water has already been used and reused thousands of times. (That’s right, you’re already drinking water that once had dinosaur poo in it. Hate to burst your bubble.)

Putting it in taps isn't a 'someday' idea

Beer, however, is the great equalizer.

People are much more likely to try recycled water when it’s got alcohol in it.

And that’s why we’re doing this beer now.

For now, Scottsdale is the only recycled water game in town.

And, for now, Scottsdale mostly produces it for demonstration purposes. The ultra-filtered water doesn’t flow to taps.

In 2019:Why we brewed a beer to tell our water story

But that will change, and not just in Scottsdale.

Phoenix also is planning to bolster its drinking supply — and, potentially, the supplies of other Valley cities — with recycled water.

Meaning this isn’t just a “someday” proposition.

Before you know it, recycled water could be flowing through thousands of local taps.

Beer is how we start this conversation

That’s a paradigm shift worth breaking down into more detail — which we’ll do leading up to the November showcase in Scottsdale, and during a Dec. 11 event at Desert Monks in Gilbert.

But for now, I’m thinking about that pale ale we’re about to brew.

We chose this style because we wanted to produce a beer that’s clean, fruity and floral, bursting with flavor, but not off-putting for folks who would never use terms like “clean,” “fruity” or “floral” to describe what’s in their glass.

It’s time to offer an everyman’s entry point into the discussion we need to have. A discussion about metro Phoenix’s water future.

I can’t wait.

Reach Allhands at On X, formerly Twitter: @joannaallhands.

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