It's a sun-dappled afternoon in the beer garden at Declaration Brewing Company in south Denver. A bluegrass band plays below a brightly colored bison mural on the adjacent brick wall. There's a toast with the newly released Centurion Pilsener. It hits all of the right notes for an easy-drinking, summer beer.
And it's made with recycled water.
To commemorate its centennial year, Denver Water teamed with Declaration in Denver to brew Centurion. "It is our 100th anniversary," says Kathie Dudas, marketing manager at Denver Water. "Our overall focus of that is past, present, and future -- but mainly the future. We're about innovation and foresight, and protecting Denver's water for generations to come. . . . Reuse is a big part of that."
And what better way to do that then demonstrate the potential of potable reuse water than a beer?
"This is one of the first times this has ever happened," says Mike Blandford, Declaration's president and chief instigating officer. "For all intents and purposes, it's recycled water. Typically, that's gray use. This is not gray use -- it's direct potable reuse."
Denver Water teamed with fellow WateReuse Colorado member Carollo Engineers to develop small-scale purification technology that was used to make 4,000 gallons of grey water potable at Denver Water's water-recycling facility on the north side of the city.
After testing the treated water to ensure it met standards for human consumption, a tanker truck delivered it to Declaration to brew 80 barrels of Centurion.
"The whole point of this project, Denver Water was leading the charge for smaller utilities," says Austa Parker, water reuse technologist with Carollo. The project laid the policy groundwork for broader implementations, and stoked market awareness, and represented only the second instance of direct potable reuse in Colorado history, following a small-scale project in the late 1980s at Denver Water.
Parker has worked on large-scale reuse projects in California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Due to drought, climate change, and population growth, potable reuse "is becoming a reality," she says.
"Recycled drinking water is not new," says Dudas. "It's new to Colorado, but several countries are already doing it."
Australia, Namibia, and Singapore are on the front end of the curve. In the U.S. San Diego, El Paso, Texas, and Altamonte Springs, Florida, are leaders, says Dudas. A few breweries across the country have brewed beer with potable reuse water.
"We wanted to make a beer that lent itself to highlighting water quality," says Mike Baker, Declaration's head brewer. "The water taster great, no problems with it whatsoever."
The beer's name has a double meaning, says Blandford. Like a Roman centurion, "Denver Water is guarding our water supply," he explains. "At the same time, they're celebrating their 100th anniversary."
After the June 1 release at Declaration's taproom, Blandford says he expects cans of Centurion to hit retail mid-month.
How did Declaration get involved? "We're nerds and we like water," jokes Blandford. "It's very much in our wheelhouse. We jumped on the opportunity."
As the first brewery in the Certifiably Green Denver program, Declaration has been a leader in sustainable efforts, with a cutting-edge heat-recovery system and delivery of spent grain to local farms.
He sees a parallel philosophy in place at Denver Water. "When you're at the top of the hill, you really are trying to create a shining example," says Blandford. "The first place we're going to run out of water is at the top of the hill. . . . They have a history of innovation. Thay have a history of being ahead of the curve."
Centurion is a prime example of that. "This is a huge step in proving this is commercially viable," says Blandford. "The science is solid."
While the first keg of Centurion was just tapped, don't expect recycled drinking water flowing from Denver faucets anytime soon. "We don't have to do it now, but we have to look to our future," says Dudas. "We don't anticipate developing a full-scale recycled water purification plant for at least 40 years."
Eric Peterson is editor of BreweryWeek and CompanyWeek. Reach him at email@example.com.