The yellow-gold liquid offered in small, clear plastic cups looked like, well, urine.
In a way, it was.
The brew that drew thoughtful nods and pleasantly surprised smiles Friday in a converted West Town factory started out a few months ago as the stuff that gets flushed down Chicago toilets.
“The best way to celebrate World Water Day is to really engage water in new ways. There is no more Chicago way than beer,” said Josina Morita, a commissioner with the Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
Morita, as part of the second annual World Water Day symposium, helped arrange for Friday’s sampling of the “first effluent beer made in Chicago.”
“Excellent beer,” declared guest and U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, sampling Unreconciled Brewing Co.’s Astro Amber Ale (“Drink like an Astronaut”). “I will be drinking this stuff, and I’m hoping to bring some of this to Washington so that my fundraisers can be even more successful.”
The ale, with a label that features a restroom man and woman in astronaut helmets, was the brainchild of North Siders Sharon Waller, an environmental engineer, and her longtime buddy, homebrewer Paul Strome, who retired from international accounting a few years ago.
Waller, a conservationist, approached Strome about the idea one day in fall 2018.
Waller said the water for the brew was discharged from the O’Brien Waste Reclamation Plant in Skokie. She hauled it out, she said, in a 5-gallon orange plastic bucket bought at Home Depot.
“It goes through a double distillation process, with heated activation. Plus, it gets heated again in the brewing process,” said Waller, 51, to allay any fears of contamination.
Waller and Strome brought along about 40 bottles Friday — including a Czech pilsner — that were sipped, along with the less adventurous fare of cookies and bite-size quiches.
The beer was a demonstration project, and they have no plans to ramp up production. Based on Friday’s reception, they appear to have an incentive.
“Nice flavor,” said John Friedmann, president of North River Commission, after sampling the pilsner. “It’s not too hoppy. … It’s not watered down like your typical American brew. It has a lot of body and depth.”
- Bottles of Unreconciled Brewing Co.’s effluent beer before a tasting Friday. | Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times
- A tasting of the first effluent beer made in Illinois at the mHub. | Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times
- U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, from left, state Rep. Sonya Harper and Chicago Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner taste the effluent beer. | Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times
- Paul Strome, co-founder and brewer at the Unreconciled Brewing. | Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times
- Unreconciled Brewing Co. made two styles of beer using effluent water. | Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times
- Sharon A Waller, co-founder and brewer at the Unreconciled Brewing. | Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times