Massachusetts Breweries Make Use of “Dirty Water” From Charles River

Austin Ray

THE GIST
Six breweries from Massachusetts are working with a local water treatment company to brew beers made with water from the Charles River, an 80-mile waterway that runs through the state known locally as “that dirty water.” More than a simple collaborative product launch, the line of Charles River beers represents a conservation effort on the part of the craft beer industry.

WHY IT MATTERS
The water that makes up the Charles has a bit of a reputation for being unsafe for swimming in, never mind consuming. Unsurprisingly, pitching beer made with water from the Charles to the drinking public inspires some obvious concern. However, with much of the state battling a severe drought this past summer (and, as droughts continue to rage elsewhere in the country), efforts like these are positioned to become more and more important to the beer industry as a whole, particularly when considering just how much water goes into making what is in essence a luxury product.
 
Speaking with the Associated Press, Nadav Efraty, CEO of Desalitech, the water treatment company partnering with the breweries as part of the first “Brew The Charles” competition, nicely summed up the motivation behind it all: “We’re having fun here, but at the end of the day, we want to educate the public and decision makers… We’re all efficient with our energy because we know it has environmental financial costs. We need to think exactly the same way about water.”
 
Breweries of the Commonwealth aren’t the only ones embracing their roles as stewards of water conservation and treatment. For its part, New Belgium—one of the most vocal proponents for green initiatives in the craft beer industry—pledges on its website to reduce water use wherever possible and to return any excess water it doesn’t use as fresh as it was received. Elsewhere, California’s Half Moon Bay Brewing began producing a version of its Mavericks Tunnel Vision IPA in 2015 that relied on water treated after use in showers and washing machines (otherwise known as “grey water”). “If I can demonstrate to people that not only is [grey water beer] good, but it’s great, then why wouldn’t you use that water for everything else?” founder Lenny Mendonca told The Guardian.
 
With regards to beer (or really any consumer product), wastewater, grey water, and “that dirty water” all face the obvious hurdle of, well, not grossing out or scaring customers. But it’s clear that many in the beer industry aren’t afraid to lead the charge on this one to help dispel fearful misconceptions and steer us all toward a future where conservation and treatment is the norm.
 
Castle Island Brewing is one of the six Bay State beer companies taking part in the competition (alongside Boston Beer, Cape Ann, Harpoon, Idle Hands, and Ipswich Ales). Speaking of Chuck, the Dry-Hopped Cream Ale his company made for the competition, founder Adam Romanow put it this way: 

“We’ve had tons of people ask us if it’s safe to drink, if it will make them glow and so on… But I enjoyed one and I’m not glowing. So I think it’s safe to say that not only can you drink this beer, but you’re going to want to.”
 
—Dave Eisenberg
 
READ MORE
Strange brews: Making beer with Boston river water [Associated Press]
The Californian craft beer brewed from wastewater [The Guardian]