Beer Science: Brewery Uses Spent Grain to Treat Town’s Filthy Drinking Water

No matter where you live in the world, from Bangor to Bangladesh, clean drinking water is extremely important. There are few natural resources that have a greater impact on the health and overall life of people. To put it bluntly, we need clean drinking water to survive. It keeps us hydrated, facilitates the removal of waste, and even helps to lubricate our joints. But we can’t get any of these positives if our water is dirty. That’s a problem a Montana town had. What they did about it should make every beer fan happy.

A few years ago, Havre, Montana, was set to pay $1 million to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant because the water was full of harmful levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, resulting in blue algae blooms in nearby lakes, ponds, and rivers. Some algae blooms can be harmful to humans and animals, producing nerve and liver toxins. For a small town, $1 million is a lot of taxpayer money for something the town believed it could fix on its own. That’s when wastewater superintendent Drue Newfield turned to Michael Garrity, the owner of Triple Dog Brewing, about using the leftover grains from the brewing process to regulate the phosphorus and nitrogen levels in the water.

It took the pair more than two years to figure out how to use the extra grain, but it worked. The addition of spent grain lowered the harmful levels. Every day, 16 gallons of barley slurry from Triple Dog and a few other breweries are added to the water. It’s worked out so well that other towns have decided to use the method, too. Beer fans should be pleased because the more spent grain they use to normalize the PH balance, the more beer needs to be made.

Photo: Cavan Images (Getty Images)

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