And it will become pee once again. How meta.
The sun is shining, it’s 11:00 AM, and I’m shit-faced. No—I’m full of piss. Almost. I’m in Hedehusene, in western Copenhagen, to taste Denmark’s first pee beer: the Pisner pilsner.
Let me begin by saying that the Pisner is not filtered piss that’s been fermented and put into a bottle. Nor is it piss that’s been poured into a water bottle and shaken up with a few water purification tablets. This beer is the beautiful result of a collaboration between the Danish Food and Agriculture Council and Nørrebro Bryghus, a Nordic craft brewery and gastropub.
If you really think hard about it, you might remember that one time back in 2015 when you donated your extremely full bladder to the Food and Agriculture council by pissing into a 12-gallon urinal at the Roskilde music festival? OK maybe you don’t, but either way, that golden mixture of Stroh Rum, Jägermeister, and draft beer has now finally become a beer itself.
What’s the meaning behind all this madness? To focus on sustainability in agriculture, the Council collected 54,000 liters of festival urine, calling the project “from piss to pilsner”—or “beer cycling,” as it was so poetically named. After eight months of storage, the urine would be sprayed onto a malting barley field in Køge, Denmark, in place of conventional fertilizer made from cow or pig waste.
Once harvested, the malting barley was sent to Baldersbrønde Brewery in Hedehusene, a facility owned by Nørrebro Bryghus that brews and taps up to 1.2 million liters of beer per year. “When we received the malt, we examined it to determine whether the quality was high enough that we could actually make beer from it,” says Henrik Vang, Director of Nørrebro Bryghus. “And it was, but we thought it was really important to get the malt examined before we started.”
The Pisner was fermented at a low temperature and numerous things have been added, such as the hops varieties polaris, from Germany, and simcoe, from the United States. When combined, the two give the final brew a citrus and pine-like aroma.
So how does this golden shower beer actually taste?
It doesn’t taste like piss at all. “No,” Vang replies, “it tastes like beer.” We have enough beer in this country that tastes like piss.
The Pisner is slightly bitter, but surprisingly fresh. It smells hoppy and definitely not like ammonia—not even a hint of urinal. If there’s any aspect of it that resembles urine, it’s all in the color: dark golden and unfiltered, just like your first piss of the morning.
“Our goal from the very beginning was to make a beer that—taste-wise—matches the entire beer cycling spirit,” says Jakob Hørslev Hansen, production manager and brewmaster at Nørrebro Bryghus. “So it was important that the beer was a light, easy-to-drink summer beer that would go well with the festival season.”
“In the beginning, we were a bit skeptical of the whole thing,” Vang recalls. “But after all, we’re an organic brewery and we actually wanted to be involved in [the process of] making a sustainable beer, and see how the grain and malt would [come through in the end].”
Although Pisner is sustainable, it’s not actually organic. Is that because the malting barley was manufactured with urine from real people who were probably high on something more than just life at the time they donated it?
Vang clarifies. “We’ve used organic ingredients in connection with the production, but the malt we used was harvested from a field that isn’t certified organic. It has nothing to do with the fact that [the crops] we used were grown with pee from humans.”
Vang explains that human manure doesn’t actually impact the brewing process or the end result. “When pee is used on a field as fertilizer, it’s been used as a natural ingredient, one that doesn’t have any influence on the grain or the flavor.”
Roskilde’s subsoil, on the other hand, has been spared from some of the urinary pressure. The city festival puts on the municipal sewage treatment plant every year, and you are finally allowed to do make like a mandrill and organize your very own pee tasting at home.
In any case, there’s no reason to be afraid of drinking pee beer. Just make sure to drink every last golden drop of the stuff if you want to become piss-drunk.