California’s water shortage continues to be epically bad, which means mounting pressure on a food and beverage industry that’s already made loads of compromises, from offering water only upon request to serving steak on paper plates. The latest example: A brewery in San Francisco has started brewing beers with recycled gray water — water that’s been used in sinks and showers, then treated. An architect aptly named Russ Drinker apparently got obsessed with making the idea a reality in 2014, but it took him approaching Half Moon Bay Brewing Company owner Lenny Mendonca last year to find a willing partner. Pretty soon after meeting, a gray water Mavericks Tunnel Vision IPA was born. It relies on NASA’s water-recycling system, the same technology astronaut Scott Kelly used to make coffee from his sweat and pee while on the International Space Station.
Admittedly, it won’t turn as many heads as poop beer, but for some reason that style of brew never got an enthusiastic backing anyway. (Actual name of one: Activated Sludge.) In a blind test last year, though, beer experts actually confused a recycled Mavericks for the regular IPA, fondly referring to it thereafter as an “I Pee A.”
Mendonca warns fans not to expect bottles at their local beer mart any time soon — like many states, California frowns upon the idea of directly pumping recycled water back into the drinking supply — and he’s actually only offered samples of it twice. But he hopes the brew can shock Californians into a paradigm change by proving the yuck factor is (at least mostly) in their heads: “People think that water is the most important ingredient. So if I can demonstrate to people that not only is [gray-water beer] good, but it’s great, then why wouldn’t you use that water for everything else?”