Thursday, March 11, 2010

Something in the water?

All brewers are concerned about the quality of the water they use to make beer. OK, that's a sixpence fine - of course I should have said liquor, water is for washing. But then I don't have to pretend I'm a bewhiskered Victorian brewer surrounded by polished copper & brass - so I'll call it water if I want.

Some Water.

A brewer of our acquaintance, recently relocated, may have trouble continuing to call one of their beers "award-winning" since different water = different beer (according to some). Another brewer we know (also recently relocated) looks set to haul a trailer loaded with IBCs full of his favourite fellside water down some very wiggly roads. Given the winter we've just had, this looks like a way of limiting brewing to 10 months of the year.

So what is it about this water that makes it so important? What's wrong with the stuff that comes out of the tap?

We were science types at school, so it's no surprise that we have a particular way of looking at the world. It works like this: If there's something we don't want in the water - we'll take it out. If we're short of something - we'll put it in. There isn't anything else in our philosophy. It's not magic.

Incidentally, if you offered a homeopath shandy, would they say "Sorry, I'm driving. I better stick to this absolute alcohol, dilute solutions always get me rotten"?

But back to the water. Chlorine - that's a thing they have in tap water that you don't want in your brewing. Heating, stirring and standing will get rid of that. Or there's that trick with sod. met. if you'd rather. Apart from that - our tap water is really soft i.e. there's not much in it.

Some More Water.

( Reservoir pictures © Copyright Michael Graham and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)
This one is just up the road from our house. Nice isn't it. There's also a bunch of windmills up here.

So, lovely soft lakeland water - that's what comes out of the tap here. Clean but with a hint of chlorine (which we can remove). If we need to add anything for brewing (e.g. calcium / magnesium salts, or common salt, whatever) we can. This way we can be sure that the water we use is potable (it has to be) and suitable.

Of course one could get a whole bunch of the favourite water and boil it down really hard, ending up with a couple of pints of some brown salty gloop. Take that to the new brewery site. Add a teaspoon to the town supply. That'll do it.

It's the purpose (and ambition) of water to become beer. Anyone who works to help this humble liquid achieve its noble destiny is alright in my book.


Velky Al said...

I used purified drinking water from the shop at the bottom of the hill from my flat. I have no idea what is in it, or even what is not in it, but the beer tastes good, which is probably the main thing.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

I just got off the phone with Former-Woolpack Dave about this. Alan was apparently out back filling three large vessels of fell water.

Ed said...

That sounds impressively bonkers. Hasn't he heard of AMS and DWB?

StringersBeer said...

Bonkers? perhaps. And perhaps not. We might make beer with chemistry - but marketing is all "magic".