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A new beer is on tap at San Diego International Airport, and sales should be soaring at it has been brewed with purified condesate collected through the gateway’s water conservation programme!

Called SAN Test Pilot and created in conjunctiion with local brewery, Ballast Point, and industrial water purification specialists, Water Works Inc, the beverage can be sampled at San Diego Ballast Point locations in Little Italy and Miramar as well as Home Brew Mart.

San Diego colour

The water for SAN Test Pilot comes from condensate that drips from the bottom of air conditioning units attached to jet bridges.

Amazingly, the airport’s Environmental Affairs team began collecting the dripping condensate in 2014 and currently captures about 100,000 gallons per year from 18 of the most heavily used jet bridges at terminals 1 and 2.

The water is used to wash sidewalks, equipment, vehicles and building exteriors in addition to being used in the cooling towers that control the temperature in the terminals.

It was when SAN reached out to Water Works to purify the water using ozone disinfection and the idea to brew a beer with the water stemmed from both of the organisations’ commitment to sustainability.

Ballast Point was approached as they have experimented with water reclamation before, turning reclaimed, purified water into drinkable beer.

San Diego terminal

“The airport is always striving to enhance our sustainability efforts and find unique ways to use the reclaimed water we capture,” enthuses Kim Becker, president and CEO of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

“This beer reaffirms our commitment to sustainability in a truly fun and innovative way.”

Water is one of the four components of beer and each beer style has its own water profile, based on the mineral makeup of the water.

The condensate water is quite pure, with total dissolved solids of 9 parts per million versus the San Diego municipal water supply which is about 600 parts per million.  Having little mineral content, reclaimed water acts as a blank slate for beer, making it an ideal base for brewers.

To achieve a particular style of beer, brewers use brewing salts to adjust the mineral content, pH and flavour of the beer.

Ballast Point’s research and development team wanted to create a beer that is light and crisp to allow the water to shine through. It ran the water through its standard production process that includes carbon filtration and used a higher level of brewing salts to achieve a strong mineral character which both styles represented exemplify.

Plane air

“Through the years, our R&D brewery has experimented with water reclamation as part of our commitment to sustainability,” explains Aaron Justus, Ballast Point’s director of research and development. 

“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 base beer is a Kӧlsh (hailing from Cologne, Germany), which is historically crisp and easy drinking.

Justus decided to also blend in characteristics of a Dortmunder Export, which comes from a somewhat similar region in northwest Germany. SAN Test Pilot landed with fruity esters similar to ripe pear while the Spalt hops give it a sharp citrus zest finish.

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