The water content in any beer is more than 90% and consequently plays a major role in the final product.
However, even though water is water to most people, nothing could be further from the truth as far a beer brewing
water is concerned. The best water for brewing beer and the most prized is from natural sources which contain
elements not found in other water sources.
Two of the major elements are Calcium and Magnesium. These two add the hardness in hard water and although
unwelcome when they cause your glasses to spot in the dishwasher, they are crucial when it comes to making a fine
beer. Not only do they add a desirable mouth feel of their own, but they also aid many of the biochemical processes
taking place during brewing.
Calcium, for instance, helps produce an acid that balances the alkaline phosphates found in malts. Control of
that acidity and alkalinity, also known as pH, is vital for the activity of enzymes that take part in the beer
Magnesium is essential because it is used by yeast in the production of enzymes required for fermentation. But,
as luck would have it, Magnesium can compete with Calcium and so its concentration has to be carefully controlled
for proper results. Also, above about twenty milligrams per litre, it can make the resulting beer sour or
Some naturally occurring or artificially added components are not desirable when it comes to beer making.
Chlorine, for instance, helps keep bacteria from building up in tap water supplies, but it adds a bitter taste and
can contribute to killing yeast. Fortunately, it is a volatile element that can be easily removed by boiling or
Sodium, contributes a salty taste, but at a too high concentration it can kill yeast. Most natural sources
contain a reasonable amount, but control of salinity at beer making sites near a sea river conjunction is
Even trace elements, such as Zinc and Copper play an important role in many brewing processes, since they figure
prominently in yeast metabolism. It is the yeast that turns malt sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide during
fermentation. High levels can contribute to a foggy or cloudy appearance to the beer.
Other elements and compounds include Sulfates, which give a dry, sharp flavor and can compliment hops. This
feature is frequently used in some British ales, but in too high a concentration it can make the ale excessively
Carbonates, promote the extraction of tannins from hops and grains. Barley is a grain and goes into making malt
sugar, used in fermentation. They help promote darker colors in some beers and provide alkalinity to balance the
Levels of these elements and compounds vary naturally throughout the world.
The home of Pilsner is the Czech town of Pilsen where the water is very soft and produces a very mild lager in
most cases. The lagers from Munich, by contrast, are delightful in part because of the hard water used by brew
meisters there for centuries. Dortmund, home to a famous lager style, has very hard water with high levels of most
minerals found in water.
Burton on Trent in England is famous for its ales that benefit from the hard water in that area. In Dublin,
Ireland where some excellent Stout's are produced, the water contains high levels of carbonate which require
balancing with acidic dark malts.
There are over eight hundred compounds in beer but a dozen or so found in water are significant factors in the