PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Some companies boast of making beer with spring water from majestic mountains.
They won't be competing in the upcoming Pure Water Brew Challenge, in which an Oregon wastewater treatment operator has asked home brewers to make great-tasting beer from hops, barley, yeast and the key, not-so-secret ingredient: treated sewer water.
The point of the contest is not to find Portland's next trendy craft beer. Rather, it's an effort to get people talking about how a vital resource can be reused thanks to advanced water-filtration systems.
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Both the downstairs pub and upstairs restaurant offer a great atmosphere for drinking one of its beers, like the Bridge of Lions Brown Ale. The upstairs balcony has a beautiful view of the city, bridge and waterway.
Not only is SweetWater one of the best and most unique beers in the South, its microbrewery is also one of the best places to enjoy a beer. Take the tour and for just $10, you get six tasting tickets to try out the different beers -- plus you get to keep your pint glass. There's also live outdoor music a few times a week. Try the SweetWater Blue ale, which is "light-bodied with a hint of blueberries."
The draft list at this beer den changes daily, with 40 drafts and 100 bottles that include a range of local crafts. It's a short walk from Camden Yards, so on game days the historic joint turns into a packed sports bar.
Just beyond Oxford, Taylor Grocery is a classic BYOB spot in the Ole Miss area. You can listen to live blues or bluegrass and drink a beer (from a plastic cup -- no cans) on the front porch while you wait to get a seat at the restaurant.
Photo: Mike Ransdell/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty
It's a "best of" in a city already known for awesome beer. This relatively new brewery has taken Asheville by storm as it combines things that didn't exist together there: great beer, high-end bar food and a huge space with various seating options. Try the Freak of Nature Double IPA.
A local favorite in the charming Lower Greenville neighborhood, its menu is shockingly tasty for a bar that houses Skee-Ball and Donkey Kong. Enjoy Dallas's warm nights with a local draft and a serious game of Jenga on the large open patio.
About 30 minutes from Seattle, the Redhook tour and brewpub is worth the trip, but this is also in the middle of Washington's wine tasting rooms. Run by Redhook at noon, sign up for an afternoon tour, go wine tasting for a few hours, then come back for the tour followed by dinner at the brewery's restaurant, Forecasters Pub.
"We need to be judging water by its quality, and not by its history," said Mark Jockers, a spokesman for Clean Water Services, which runs four wastewater treatment plants in the Portland suburbs. "The water we're producing is significantly cleaner than what the safe drinking standards are for water that comes out of taps across the United States."
The utility plans to release 300 gallons of highly purified water in early June to roughly 20 home brewers from the Oregon Brew Crew, the state's oldest home-brewing club. A panel of experts will judge the beers in late July or early August. The victor wins $100, five others will get $50, and their kegs will be taken to an international water conference in Chicago. Though state regulators have approved the safety of the water, the beer won't be sold at stores or bars.
Though some might find toilet-to-tap totally gross, places from Singapore to parts of California and Texas use treated effluent for drinking water, generally mixing it into the regular supply.
Advocates of water reuse like to say all water is reused. When one town treats its wastewater and discharges it into a river, some of it eventually finds its way into another town's drinking supply.
"We all live downstream from someone," said Zachary Dorsey of the WateReuse Association, a nonprofit that supports water recycling.
The rainy Portland area has never had to consider intentionally drinking wastewater. In fact, the city made national headlines last year when it wasted 35 million gallons of drinking water because one man urinated into an open-air reservoir.
Clean Water Services says a growing population and environment factors might eventually pressure the supply in the Pacific Northwest. Its hope is to change Oregon regulations before there's a crisis.
Its process for purifying the water for the beer contest includes ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation - terms that don't exactly fire the public's imagination.
Oregon Brewers Festival founder Art Larrance sits on the utility's advisory board. He figured if you want to get Oregonians talking about recycled water, you have to make beer. The contest was born.
Some water cleaned by the utility goes for irrigation, but most is discharged into the Tualatin River. Last year, Clean Water Services held a contest in which brewers used water drawn from the river. That batch contained 30 percent treated wastewater. This year's competition will be 100 percent "sewage brewage."
Ted Assur won the top prize in the river contest, defeating a dozen competitors with his Vox Max Belgian beer. He said the contest was unique because participants were told to make beer that highlights the water.
"As a brewer, that's not usually the ingredient you're highlighting; it's either the malt or the hops or the yeast," he said. "I took it to mean something light, refreshing."
Assur described the highly purified water as stark, almost like distilled water, allowing him to essentially start with a blank slate before adding mineral salts.
"It is some of the best water I've ever made beer with," he said. "I think the fact that it was really starting with absolutely nothing but water, and then having to add in the exact minerals I needed. I felt like that was a factor in producing a great beer."
He wouldn't divulge what type of beer he intends to make this time around. With the contest getting national publicity, he expects a fiercer competition.