US. San Diego International Airport has used purified concentrate from its water conservation programme to brew a new beer – SAN Test Pilot – in partnership with local brewery Ballast Point and industrial water purification company Water Works.

SAN Test Pilot’s water comes from the condensate that drips from the bottom of air conditioning units attached to 18 of the airport’s jet bridges. San Diego International’s environmental affairs team began collecting the dripping condensate in 2014 and currently captures about 100,000 gallons per year.

The reclaimed water had been used to wash sidewalks, equipment, vehicles and building exteriors at the airport, in addition to being used in the cooling towers that control temperature levels in the terminals.

Reclaimed airport water is a key ingredient of the new SAN Test Pilot beer

The airport’s condensate water is quite pure, with total dissolved solids of nine parts per million, a great deal purer than the San Diego municipal water supply, which is about 600 parts per million. The airport engaged with Water Works to purify the water it has collected. Ballast Point was then approached to create the new product as the brewer was known for its previous experiments with water reclamation, turning reclaimed, purified water into drinkable beer.

Having little mineral content, reclaimed water acts as a blank slate for beer, making it an “ideal base” for brewers, the airport said. To achieve a particular style of beer brewers use brewing salts to adjust the mineral content, acidity and flavour of the beer.

Ballast Point ran the water through its standard production process, which includes carbon filtration and the use of a high level of brewing salts to achieve a strong mineral character.

“The airport is always striving to enhance our sustainability efforts and find new ways to use the reclaimed water we capture.” – San Diego County Regional Airport Authority President & CEO Kim Becker

The base beer for SAN Test Pilot is a Kӧlsch hailing from Cologne, Germany, which Ballast Point describes as “crisp and easy drinking”. The brewer also blended in characteristics of a Dortmunder Export from northwest Germany. SAN Test Pilot uses fruity esters similar to ripe pear, while Spalt hops give it a sharp and citrusy finish.

San Diego County Regional Airport Authority President & CEO Kim Becker said: “The airport is always striving to enhance our sustainability efforts and find unique ways to use the reclaimed water we capture. This beer reaffirms our commitment to sustainability in a truly fun and innovative way.”

Ballast Point Director of Research & Development Aaron Justus said that experimentation with water reclamation forms part of his company’s commitment to sustainability in its brewing practices. He added: “We wanted to create a beer that would highlight the water as opposed to the hops, which we think we achieved in this easy-to-drink beer. SAN Test Pilot is uniquely San Diego in that all the water is purified and reclaimed from just down the street, significantly reducing the overall carbon footprint.”

The 5.8% ABV beer is now on tap at locations where Ballast Point beers are sold in the San Diego neighbourhoods of Little Italy and Miramar, and is also available through the brewer’s own retail operation, Home Brew Mart.