Bill Gates gets into the beer game

2023 Australian Open - Day 12
2023 Australian Open - Day 12 / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

When you're in your late sixties and your accomplishments include founding one of the largest technology brands in the world, establishing a multi-billion dollar charitable foundation with your spouse, investing millions into medical research, and becoming one of the wealthiest humans on the planet you kick back and have a few beers, right? Well, kind of.

Bill Gates, yes that and the Bill Gates, has gotten into the beer game in a very big way. The Microsoft founder purchased 10.8 million shares of Heineken, Heineken Holding NV to be exact. Gates paid almost $940 million for the shares and is now one of the major players in the international beer industry.

For Heineken, Gates' purchase fills a gap of recently sold Heineken shares by their major Mexican shareholder FEMSA. Oddly enough, Gates bought an almost $400 million stake in FEMSA back in 2007. FEMSA, a multinational beverage and retail company whose operations include the world's largest independent Coca-Cola bottling group, sold its brewery to Heineken in 2010. Quite the interesting game of following the bouncing beer.

A very interesting aside is that Gates' investment in Heineken coincides with the financial tailspin of fellow beer giant Budweiser. Budweiser has been experiencing a loss in value as its stock has continually dropped amidst the recent Bud Light controversy where they featured a transgender personality on their cans, a move that set off a boycott by those in conservative circles. Over the past six months, Budweiser's stock has dropped 8.1%, down 9.7% over the past month. Bud Light sales dropped 23% in May which cleared way for Modelo Especial to be the top beer seller of the month in the U.S.

In a less direct but still very impactful way, Heineken isn't the only beer Gates has a role in.

In 2011 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started the "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge" as a way to promote the creation and inspiration of new toilet technologies to better handle human waste. How exactly does this have anything to do with beer? Have a few sips of lager and hold on a second.

One of the companies awarded a grant by the foundation from that challenge was Epic Cleantec, a water reuse and treatment technology company out of San Francisco. From their work in water, they turned their focus to beer and created one made from recycled wastewater. Yes, you read that right. A beer made from wastewater. The beer, Epic OneWater Brew, is a Kolsch-style ale made in partnership with bay area neighbor Devil's Canyon Brewing Company. The water used to make the experimental beer was wastewater from an apartment complex in San Francisco. Gross? Not really. The wastewater was fed through an ultra-filtration process to make it reusable, a process that Epic Cleantec says is a lot like the process of a human stomach and swear by the science.

You won't find Epic OneWater Brew in stores anytime soon as recycled wastewater products cannot be sold in stores in the U.S. so Epic Cleantec is just giving the beer away. It's the hope that the free beers can show consumers the real-life capabilities of water reuse. A driving force behind the brewing experiment is to highlight the importance of reusing water in the anticipated times of water shortages both here in the States and around the world.