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Craft breweries around the country pride themselves on using the freshest local ingredients they can get their hands on. Brewers often boast of using local hops and malts to create a beer that has a real local character. What most of us forget however, is the importance of water in beer.
Most beers contain around 95% water, making H2O an absolutely essential ingredient. But there’s so much more that water does for beer, other than simply providing a base for hop, malt and yeast flavours. Any brewer worth their salt will testify to the importance of high quality water in brewing.
Let’s take a deeper look.
The impact of water on beer
Water differs from region to region, all around the world. Simply put you’ll find hard and soft water, but the mineral makeup of different water sources is far more complex. The taste and character of your beer will vary depending on the minerals and chemicals found in your local water.
Water is responsible for many traits – both desirable and undesirable. For example, water containing Calcium Sulphate will create a beer that delivers a pleasing dryness, leaving you craving another pint. On the other hand, if the brewing water contains chlorine, the finished beer is likely to have an unpleasant medicinal off taste.
Brewing water around the world
Before water treatments were readily available to add to a brew, certain beer styles were associated with geographical locations.
- Pale ales – Burton on Trent, UK
- Porter and Stout – London and Dublin, UK and Ireland
- Pilsner – Plzeň, Czechia
- Gose – Goslar, Germany
This is due to the local water profiles. The hard waters of Burton on Trent were ideal for pale ales, while the soft water of Plzeň lent itself to the cleaner, Pilsner style beer. The exact same Pilsner recipe, using the same ingredients but different water sources, brewed in Plzeň and London would create two very different beers. Similarly, a Gose brewed with Dublin’s water would lack the saltiness that is characteristic of this style.
Nowadays, brewers are able to add and remove minerals to create the ideal water profile for the beer they’re brewing. Calcium Sulphate, Calcium Chloride and Magnesium Sulphate are popular additions, and they can help improve the body, mouthfeel and taste of a range of beers.
Rainwater from the Otways
Prickly Moses Handcrafted Beer has a fortunate position living in the Otways. The lush rainforest provides them with ample amounts of pure rain water, which contains far fewer minerals and chemicals than typical ground water. The Prickly Moses Brewery takes advantage of this, and uses only the purest rainwater, fresh from the rainforest, in all of their beers.
This very special water source certainly adds to the character of their unique beers. Indeed, you might not have tasted anything like it before! Which just goes to show that even in today’s modern world, locally sourced ingredients make for the most interesting and unique concoctions.