Epic OneWater Brew looks like your classic hipster craft beer.

The can has an elegant design with the silhouette of a city skyline, and it cracks open with a satisfying hiss. The beer, Kölsch, has a crisp golden hue and a signature fruity taste.

But there’s one big difference: It’s made with recycled sewage.

Epic OneWater Brew, the product of a partnership between a wastewater technology startup and a Bay Area craft brewery, is made with treated shower and wash water collected from a luxury high-rise apartment building in San Francisco. And it’s not the only beer of its kind.

As water sources, especially in the western United States, dry up due to overuse, drought and climate change, proponents of direct potable reuse—the use of treated sewage in the drinking water supply—present it as part of the solution. Increasingly, they are turning to beer as a way to get people past the “ick factor” that has been an obstacle to its wider acceptance.

If people are reluctant to drink recycled sewage, the thinking goes, perhaps they might be enticed if it were served frozen cold.

Aaron Tartakovsky, the co-founder and chief executive of Epic Cleantec, the wastewater technology company that worked with Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company of San Carlos, Calif., to create Epic OneWater Brew, said he wanted to make the beer to show the “untapped potential” of water reuse.

“We live in what we like to call here at Epic a ‘forgettable’ society,” he said. “We have this innate factor factor when it comes to talking about sewage, or sewage, and all these other types of factor factors.”

Some western and southwestern cities that are struggling to manage the challenges of population growth and strained water supplies have held competitions for craft breweries to produce signature beers using recycled sewage. California, Idaho and Arizona are among the states that have worked with local breweries to raise awareness of the need for water reuse.

Scottsdale, Arizona, which has irrigated nearly two dozen golf courses with treated wastewater since the 1990s, received a state permit in 2019 allowing direct potable reuse of its treated recycled water. Scottsdale doesn’t currently send that water into the drinking supply, but Brian Biesemeyer, Scottsdale Water’s executive director, said that could change in two or three years.

To help the public understand the concept of drinking treated wastewater, Scottsdale Water invited 10 breweries to brew beer using water from the city’s advanced wastewater treatment plant and serve it at an arts festival in 2019. The beer tents were accompanied by an information booth that explained the recycling process.

While people initially balked at the prospect of drinking treated sewage, Mr. Biesemeyer said, many were eager to try the beers after a tutorial on how clean and safe the treated water is.

“We found the beer event to be a fun way to get people over that fear a little bit,” he said.

Desert Monks Brewing Company of Gilbert, Arizona, which participated in the Scottsdale challenge, embraced the concept and brewed two beers with Scottsdale’s treated sewage. Sonoran Mist, a lager, has quickly become the brewery’s best-seller, and a Hefeweizen will be added to the lineup next month.

Two of the brewery’s owners, Sommer Decker and John Decker, believe Desert Monks is the first brewery in the country to consistently offer beer made with recycled sewage on tap.

“We’re a small brewery, so being able to get this ultra-purified water from a large-scale entity gave us water that was more purified than we can get from our own systems at this point,” Ms. Decker said.

Efforts to promote the wider use of recycled drinking water suffered from a perception problem, reinforced by critics who denounced the process as a “toilet to tap.” But Stanford University researchers found last year that recycled sewage is safe to drink as well less toxic than other sources of tap water because it is treated more rigorously.

In Scottsdale, that process involves ozone infusion, microfiltration and reverse osmosis, in which water is forced across a membrane to remove dissolved minerals and other impurities. The water is then sprayed with ultraviolet light. Together, these measures eliminate “badly almost everything,” Mr. Biesemeyer said.

“I think the biggest thing was that it tastes good,” said Chris Garrett, the owner of Devil’s Canyon, where Epic OneWater Brew was brewed, noting that people have preconceived notions about sewage. “They assume, ‘Oh my God, it’s sink water.’ And it’s like, well, it’s actually probably cleaner than what’s coming out of the rivers.”

The Epic brew was born out of San Francisco in 2021 prescription requiring new buildings larger than 100,000 square feet to have on-site water reuse programs. Epic Cleantec partnered with 1550 Mission Street, a luxury high-rise apartment building, and Devil’s Canyon to turn the building’s gray water — runoff from laundry and showers, not toilets — into beer. Epic OneWater Brew is not for sale, but Mr. Tartakovsky said he served it at his wedding last month.

When a brewery in Half Moon Bay, California, decided to try brewing with sewage, it turned to a neighbor for help: NASA, which has developed its own water recycling technology so that its astronauts can drink water in space. The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company collected recycled gray water from the space agency’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, and used it to make a limited edition India Pale Ale called Tunnel Vision. The beer was served at events for limited periods between 2014 and 2017.

“The water was even more neutral than the water we use here,” said James Costa, the brewer at Half Moon Bay. “No one could tell the difference.”

The Clean Water Brewing Alliance is a coalition of water utility companies, brewers, engineering firms and technology firms that share resources, techniques and information to use recycled wastewater to make beer. The goal, said Travis Loop, one of the leaders of the alliance, is that “water should be judged by its quality, not its history.”

“We have the technology to clean water, to purify water,” he said. “And as we can see from the times we’re in, we’re going to have to do a lot more of that.”

Boise, Idaho, a fast-growing city in the high desert, turned to the alliance as it sought to upgrade its water treatment and distribution system in 2018. A fellow member, Pima County, Ariz., offered Boise a trailer with technology that could turn sewage into drinkable water. Other members shared paperwork they used to get permits to use recycled sewage to make beer, condensing a process that used to take six months to just six weeks, Mr. Loop said. Boise teamed up with three breweries and a cidery, and hosted events in 2018 where the recycled wastewater drinks were served.

Currently, recycled sewage beer is only available for sale in Arizona. Because sewage cannot be consumed in California, breweries there have been limited to one-off brews for specific events. In Idaho, a permit that allowed the consumption of reclaimed wastewater was only valid for a short time, in 2018, but Boise is developing a full-scale water recycling program.

Scottsdale is the only city in Arizona that lets the public sample recycled sewage. This works to the advantage of Desert Monks, who have capitalized on their access to large quantities of ultrapure water. A self-professed “huge sci-fi nerd,” Mr. Decker, one of the brewery’s co-owners, joked that he had his sights set far beyond Arizona.

“I use the same water processes that astronauts use,” he said. “So if somebody’s going to go to Mars, we’ve got the beer for them.”

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