Technically, it’s beer made with “purified condensate.”
In laypersons’ terms, the water used to make two new seasonal beers being served at San Diego International Airport (SAN) comes from water that drips from the bottom of air conditioning units attached to jet bridges; this water would otherwise land on the ground and go to waste.
Water conservation is an ongoing concern in Southern California. So, as part of the airport’s water stewardship program, SAN collects jet bridge air conditioner condensate in big barrels, purifies the drippings using reverse osmosis and ozone disinfection, and sends some of the remaining water off to San Diego’s East Village Brewing Company for use in special beers.
The rest of the reclaimed water is also put to good use for tasks such as cleaning airport equipment and vehicles; it’s also used in the cooling towers that help regulate the air temperature inside the passenger terminals.
But let’s get back to beer.
“The condensate water is superbly pure and ideal for brewing,” Aaron Justus, owner and brewer at the East Village Brewing Company, says. “Plus, it’s no secret that California is in the midst of a long-term drought, so water reclamation is a creative way to reduce our water footprint here in San Diego.”
With the condensate water from SAN, Justus and his team have brewed two special travel-themed beers.
Related: Local Beer Is Trending at an Airport Near You
Hoppy Travels IPA is a West Coast IPA with flavors of grapefruit and guava. PreFlight Pilsner is a German-style beer with bready and lemon zest flavors. As of Dec. 23, both beers are on tap in Terminal 2 at both Phil’s BBQ and Stone Brewing — which also has a few other specialty drafts on the menu.
Each restaurant received one keg each of Hoppy Travel IPA and Preflight Pilsner. While the airport hopes the collaboration with East Village Brewing Company will continue, the special reclaimed water beers are not going to be heavily promoted. They are available “while supplies last,” so travelers who are in the know can order them when passing through SAN.
This isn’t the first time SAN has served up beer brewed with reclaimed jet bridge air conditioner drippings. In 2019, the airport partnered with local brewery Ballast Point and an industrial water purification company to create a small batch of a special beer called SAN Test Pilot. It was a big hit and sold out quickly.
Here’s a video that explains how air-conditioning drippings at the airport become great-tasting, good-for-the-planet beer.
Other airports where you can grab great brews
Many airports around the country are now home to brewpubs and restaurants that make a point of serving locally crafted beers.
For instance, Tampa International Airport (TPA) is home to Cigar City Brewing’s Brewpub & Taproom while Portland International Airport (PDX) features Deschutes Brewery Public House and the Juliett bar. Juliett honors women in aviation with specialty cocktails and beers named for notable female aviators and their organizations. Stone Arch, at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), works with the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild to keep the can, bottles and taps filled with Minnesota-brewed beers.
Many people are going to spend time in airports this holiday season. So, let us know your favorite airport brewpub and share your suggestions on what to order.