Two expanded granular sludge bed-anaerobic filter (EGSB-AF) bioreactors (3.38l active volume) were used to directly compare psychrophilic (15 degrees C), anaerobic digestion (PAD) to mesophilic (37 degrees C) anaerobic digestion (MAD) for the treatment of a brewery wastewater (chemical oxygen demand (COD) concentration of 3136 +/- 891 mg l(-1)). Bioreactor performance was evaluated by COD removal efficiency and biogas yields at a range of hydraulic and organic loading rates. Specific methanogenic activity (SMA) assays were also employed to investigate the activity of the biomass in the bioreactors. No significant difference in the COD removal efficiencies (which ranged from 85-93%) were recorded between PAD and MAD during the 194-d trial at maximum organic and hydraulic loading rates of 4.47 kg m(-3) day(-1) and 1.33 m(3) m(-3) day(-1), respectively. In addition, the methane content (%) of the biogas was very similar. The volumetric biogas yield from the PAD bioreactor was approximately 50% of that from the MAD bioreactor at an organic loading rate of 4.47 kg COD m(-3) day(-3) and an applied liquid up-flow velocity (V-up) of 2.5 m h(-1). Increasing the V-up in the PAD bioreactor to 5 m h(-1) resulted in a volumetric biogas production rate of approximately 4.1 l d(-1) and a methane yield of 0.28l CH4 g(-1) COD d(-1), which were very similar to the MAD bioreactor. Significant and negligible biomass washout was observed in the mesophilic and psychrophilic systems, respectively, thus increasing the sludge loading rate applied to the former and underlining the robustness of the latter, which appeared underloaded. A psychrotolerant mesophilic, but not truly psychrophilic, biomass developed in the PAD bioreactor biomass, with comparable maximum SMA values to the MAD bioreactor biomass. PAD, therefore, was shown to be favourably comparable to MAD for brewery wastewater treatment and biogas generation. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.