Water is the largest component in beer but generally provides little or no flavor to the final product. As a result, some brewers move water quality down their priority list. Obviously, that is a mistake.
Quality of water can have profound effects on the star flavor producers in beer: malt, hops and yeast. Take hardness and alkalinity for example. Water hardness is caused by the presence of metallic, positively charged ions in water, namely calcium and magnesium. Water with high concentrations of these ions is considered hard, while water with low concentrations of these ions is considered soft. Hard water may occur naturally based on the location and geology of the source water. Pilsen, Czech Republic, for example, is an area with historically soft water that is responsible for providing the soft hop flavor of traditional pilsners. Water hardness can be increased or decreased accordingly before using the water for brewing. Testing hardness can be performed by several different methods that vary in complexity as well as accuracy.
And so on.
Proper brewing water treatment can help improve many aspects of beer quality and perception. At the 2016 Craft Brewers Conference & BeerExpo America in Philadelphia (at 3:20 p.m. on May 6), Martin Brungard, president of Bru’n Solutions, is giving a talk titled Brewery Water Treatment that will illuminate a ton of these issues. Brungard is an engineer with more than 30 years experience in water and wastewater design as well as an experienced brewer and beer judge. Bru’n Solutions understands water and wastewater equipment and the intricacies of brewing.
Proper water treatment is a critical component in brewery quality assurance. Brewery water treatment includes removing obvious off-flavor producers such as disinfectants and metals. In addition, brewery water treatment means altering the ionic content of the water to better fit the beer style being brewed and helping ensure that the important flavors from malt, hops and yeast are not adulterated or damaged in the process. Water chemistry is also important in maintaining the performance and longevity of brewery equipment such as boilers and kettles. Both equipment and techniques for altering brewing water will be presented during Brungard’s session.
“Many brewers take what comes out of the tap and use it,” Brungard says. “‘If it tastes good, you can brew with it,’ has been a favorite quote in brewing circles. However, taste has little to do with a water’s suitability for brewing. Understanding brewing water chemistry and its effect on most aspects of the brewing process is an important skill for any brewer.”
One of the most important aspects of brewing water treatment is the management of alkalinity in the water supply and in the various stages of brewing. In fact, excessive tap water alkalinity is a primary cause of many flavor problems in beer. Fortunately, a variety of techniques and equipment can help alleviate that problem in the modern brewery. For brewers struggling with nagging flavor problems in their beers, proper water treatment can often provide the key to solving them.
Bru’n Solutions is a consultant providing guidance in all aspects of the treatment and management of water and wastewater for breweries. Since Bru’n Solutions does not sell equipment, it serves as the brewery’s advocate in finding the best solutions to the brewery’s water and wastewater needs.