Everywhere else in the world, the beer comes first, then the fog. That’s not the case in the Atacama Desert in South America, considered to be the driest non-polar desert in the world. There, a daily fog known as “The Darkness” is collected by a newly-patented ‘fog harvester’ and turned into usable water for irrigation, households and a local beer brewery. Fog Beer? Does Homer Simpson know about this?
Residents of this arid Andean desert – which covers parts of Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina – have been plagued by dry air for centuries. The only possible respite comes early every morning when Camanchaca (The Darkness in the Aymara language) rolls in from the Pacific. It gets its name from the fact that the sun heats the Pacific and evaporates an enormous amount of water, creating a super-dense dark fog that rolls in with the morning wind. Unfortunately, the Darkness doesn’t become the Dampness because the hot desert air evaporates it too quickly. No rain, no mist, no beer.
That’s where the fog harvester comes in. Chilean researchers worked with MIT scientists to develop a giant screen made of tiny polypropylene threads woven in a tight criss-cross pattern. When facing the Darkness, the screen lets the wind pass through but not the tiny water droplets, which run down the threads into a trough. This technique has been around for a while but MIT helped bump up the efficiency to where a single screen can remove 10 percent of a fog’s water (up to 14 liters a day) and multiple screens positioned in sequence can extract even more. Thus the patent, since this simple and economical system can be used in at least 17 nations with similar arid conditions and foggy mists.
Yeah, yeah … what about the beer? The craft beer is called Atrapaniebla (also known as “a heavenly brew”) and is brewed by brothers Marco and Miguel Carcuro of Coquimbo, Chile, using nothing but harvested water. They claim their beer is better (don’t all brewers claim this?) because the water is low in carbon, sulfate and nitrate. Beer connoisseurs say it tastes like a Scottish ale with …
… a golden amber foam slightly cloudy and light brown and medium intensity, good consistency and low adhesion to the glass … medium complexity … light touches of caramel … [goes with] white meat, white fish.
The brothers are producing up to 500 liters of beer a week with a target of 11,000 bottles per month.
With that kind of production from their fog harvester, the brothers should start every morning by singing “Hello Darkness, my old friend.”