Urine beer – that’s right, beer made from urine – may soon be on the shelves of your favorite liquor store, if a Belgian university’s ambitious plan comes to fruition, People is reporting.
While your gut reaction to the idea of urine beer may be to go “Eww!” and run for the bathroom, the idea isn’t all that far-fetched. Readers who are familiar with survivalism, sailing, water conservation, space exploration, or a handful of industries know that urine can be recycled back into water. And in some cases – for example, your boat is stranded at sea or you’re on board the International Space Station – every last drop of water is precious beyond measure and must be conserved at all costs. Even if that means recycling your pee.
Now a team of Belgian scientists at Ghent University wants to take things a step further. They’ve created a device that uses solar energy to convert urine into safe drinking water, and then brew that water into beer. University of Ghent researcher Sebastiaan Derese even has a fun name for the device, according to Reuters: the “sewer brewer.”
“We’re able to recover fertilizer and drinking water from urine using just a simple process and solar energy.”
The urine beer process has a side benefit as well: after being collected in a tank and boiled by solar energy, a membrane separates out the phosphorus nitrogen and potassium from the urine. Those nutrients can make a valuable fertilizer – which, like potable water, can be scarce in certain parts of the world.
As Water.org reports, some 663 million people – one in 10 people on Earth – lack access to clean water. And there is no one solution to the problem. Drilling wells are a starting point, but conservation and recycling also play a role.
“While drilling a well can be easy, delivering water and sanitation solutions that are sustainable in the long haul is not and involves a number of important components.”
Right now, urine beer only exists in theory – you can’t run to your liquor store and buy a bottle of Pee Pilsner just yet.
But the Ghent University researchers are hoping to make a go of it. A few weeks ago at the Roskilde Music Festival in Denmark, the researchers collected pee from thousands of festival-goers (as anyone who has ever been to a music festival will tell you, there’s plenty of beer – and then pee – to go around). They converted that collected urine into a thousand liters (about 264 gallons) of potable drinking water, which they intend to brew into urine beer.
As Geek writer Lee Mathews notes, this presents the Belgian brewers with a rather unique opportunity.
“Hopefully they go full meta and sell new beer at Roskilde 2018 that’s made from urine made from the old beer that was made from urine that was made from regular old beer. Pee-beer inception!”
The brewers have plans for collecting urine to turn into beer that goes beyond music festivals. Already, the researchers are looking into installing urine collection systems at airports and sports stadiums, then converting it into potable water, and then beer, and taking it – along with the fertilizer separated from the urine – into places in the developing world where it’s needed the most.
Whether or not urine beer will wind up on liquor store shelves in the first world remains to be seen.
Would you drink urine beer? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Shutterstock/Ezume Images]