Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous about beer that it makes you laugh out loud? That happened to me last week.
But before we get to that, I need to explain a few things about water and beer.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know when I tell you beer is mostly water. And good craft beer needs good water.
Side note: Did you know you can get beer-flavored water too? Yep, go to your local grocery store and pick up Bud Light or Michelob Ultra.
In any case, the need for good water is why most commercial breweries use at LEAST a simple water filter, have a reverse osmosis system or treat their water with a filtration system that costs as much as our brewery. Like the one at Sierra Nevada and their $110 million kick-ass facilities up in Asheville.
The reason we filter the water is to strip out any impurities that can cause off-flavors. Using tap water with a heavy chlorine smell isn’t the best water to use when making beer.
It’s also to create a clean slate or starting point with our water. But more on that in a few seconds (depending on how fast you read).
So when I heard this last week, it was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard in a while. Even more ridiculous than the end of Game of Thrones.
I was talking with a few ladies about our brewery. They were curious about how we make our beer, our story, history, etc. Near the end of the conversation, she said, “My friend says the beer up north is better because the water is better. What do you think?”
(me after hearing that question)
I sort of laughed and pondered that statement for a second. Scowled a bit and said “That’s something only a beer snob would say”
In the back of my head, I seriously started contemplating if he could be right. I mean, there are some beautiful mountains and rivers and streams that are crystal clear. They could be a better source of water.
Maybe this guy knows something I don’t know. Maybe that’s why those Alchemy Brewing beers are so good.
Then the more I thought about it the more I confirmed my initial thought: That guy isn’t a beer snob. He’s just clueless.
Granted… He could be right about the beers being better. But it’s not because of the water.
I said before that most breweries filter their water to remove impurities. That’s not the whole story.
If we can afford it, all breweries want to use reverse osmosis water (or super-duper filtered water like Sierra Nevada). Because then we can create an exact profile of the water we want by adding in minerals and salts.
Meaning the beer is consistently the same because all the ingredients are the same. That’s why you’ll never be able to tell if the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale you enjoyed was brewed in California or North Carolina. Both locations use the same exact grain bill, same exact hops, same exact yeast and, the same exact water profile.
But some of us less-affluent breweries settle for a filtration system that will at least filter out impurities. The disadvantage is that we have to send our water out to be evaluated so we know what the chemical makeup of the water is.
Why do we need to know that?
Because every time we create a beer, we adjust the water slightly for that style. For us to get the same water profile every time, we have to know what minerals are in it already to make the adjustment. Little salt here, little minerals there and voila, perfect water profile for a New England IPA.
And that’s why that guy is full of crap. All breweries do this. If a brewery in Vermont is making a New England IPA, they’re going to, for the most part, use a very similar (if not the same) water profile we are. So his argument that the “water is better” is complete hogwash. Hey, that’s the first time I’ve used hogwash in an email. Pretty cool.
So be on the lookout for those pretend beer snobs. The good beer snobs will never say something like that. The good ones will tell you the REAL reason some of those northern breweries crank out some of the best beer in the U.S.
I’ll save that for another post. Not that I’m calling myself a beer snob. I still drink Yuengling. Most beer snobs wouldn’t touch that.
Hey there, I'm Chris Rock. I'm one of the co-founder's of RockPit Brewing, RockPit's marketing dude and a long-winded writer (see above). And if you like my writing, sign up for my emails below. Or don't and miss out on all the good stuff we send out.
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