Aaron Dysart's disco ball-esque art installation hanging on the outdoor ceiling at Fulton Brewery in Minneapolis

Fulton Brewery adds art display based on CSE wastewater research

Professor aims to make beer brewing more sustainable

Not all scientific research gets to be in the spotlight, but thanks to a new art installation at Fulton Brewery in downtown Minneapolis, College of Science and Engineering Professor Paige Novak’s does.

Byproduct, created by local artist Aaron Dysart, is essentially a disco ball hanging from the ceiling of the brewery’s taproom. But the colorful light it projects isn’t just for show—it represents data from a MnDRIVE-funded sustainable wastewater treatment project Novak has been working on with Fulton since 2018.

Brewing beer generates a high volume of wastewater that’s full of carbon-containing compounds. According to the Brewers Association, brewing one pint generates seven pints of wastewater on average.

While some larger craft brewers can cut that figure down to only a couple of pints, others (typically microbreweries) sometimes produce as much as 15-20 pints of waste per pint of beer. This wastewater is often treated by the city using electricity, which consumes a lot of energy and ultimately contributes to carbon emissions and global warming. Plus, Breweries pay a premium to remove and treat this waste.

Novak and her team at the University of Minnesota’s BioTechnology Institute (BTI) have developed a more sustainable option—using bacteria to convert the excess carbon from wastewater into hydrogen and methane that can be used for clean fuel. The treatment method is now being tested in a pilot program at Fulton.

“It's been super fun to work with a local brewery,” said Novak, who holds the Joseph T. and Rose S. Ling Chair in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering.

“Going out and trying to do something that could make a difference, and then showcasing this idea of thinking about art as way to visualize data, has been really cool.”

Dysart’s installation will spin at a rate proportional to the gas produced by the bioreactors, projecting color sequences linked to the ratio of hydrogen and methane on the wall of the brewery’s outdoor beer garden.

Byproduct made its debut at the Fulton taproom on Sept. 23, 2021, and it will remain on display until Oct. 23, 2021.

Learn More on this research project:

Clean energy from beer waste

Electrifying opportunities from beer waste

Brewing better fertilizer

If you’d like to support research in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, visit our CSE Giving website.