the history of water in beer . . .
Clubs of America | Apr 06, 2011
It’s no surprise that the backbone ingredient of all beer is water. But you may be surprised to learn that all water is NOT created equal. While it is, indeed, made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, suspended chemicals, minerals, salts, etc. present in water alter the personality of it. Also to be considered is if it is well water (usually unadulterated by added “ingredients”), surface water (at the mercy of contaminants from surrounding farms and properties), or municipality well water (containing chlorine for bacteria control).
Of the three, well water is a brewmaster’s first choice, as it has the best chance of containing only natural salts, especially calcium, which stimulate the growth and prosperity of yeast and fermentation.
Some breweries boast unique water supplies and have adapted their brew recipes to take full advantage of it. Burton-on-Trent in England, and Dortmund in Germany, are two that have capitalized to the max on their unusual natural H2O. While water’s impact on the taste of any beer is somewhat subtle, the minerals can bring out flavor nuances, especially bitterness.
It would be easy to assume that water is a stable ingredient in beer, but that’s not the case. Without getting technical, suffice it to say that in brewing, the water with its present ions and pH, have to play nicely with the ingredients added to the water to make a successful brew. Malt, with its complex soluble phosphates, acidic salts, etc., has to get along with the character of the water if the beer is to be likeable.
No need to worry about the quality of the water in the selections brought to you this month by your Beer of the Month Club. We bring you only those brews made with the finest ingredients – including the water!