The quality of our brewing water is of utmost importance to the quality of our beers. The Reinheitsgebot (aka German Beer Purity Law) is perhaps the oldest food-quality regulation in the world. Dating back to 1516, the Reinheitsgebot decreed that only water, barley and hops can be used as ingredients in beer. Centuries later, yeast was added as the fourth ingredient (after it was recognized as the fermenting agent). Although beer is primarily composed of water, the impact of water on its flavor profile is often overlooked.
Historically, the influence of local water supply on the brewing of beer had been known well before the chemistry of water composition was understood. The classic styles of beer known today have evolved around the regional differences in water quality. The soft water in Pilsen led to the light pilsner lager. The high concentration of calcium and alkalinity in Dublin water on the other hand is well suited to dark beers such as stouts. With very high sulfate concentrations in its well waters, Burton on Trent, north of London, became known for its pale ales (and the IPA’s exported by the East India Company).
From a technical standpoint, the most important effect of brewing water is establishing proper pH when mashing the malt. The performance of the enzymes that breakdown the malt (into the sugars digestible by the yeast) greatly depends on both pH and temperature. The differing styles of beer result in part from balancing the acidity of the malt and the alkalinity of the water. The flavor profile of beer is also directly related to the mineral levels in the water.
As a modern craft brewery, Mocama will brew a broad range of beer styles using a single water supply. To do this successfully, we will design and install a water filtration and treatment system that utilizes reverse osmosis and nanofiltration membranes. This system gives our brewers the advantage of custom designing water suitable to any beer style of choice instead of troubleshooting a water supply that is either inconsistent or unsuitable.
The municipal water authority in Fernandina Beach uses chlorine and chloramines to disinfect our water supply. Brewers should always remove these disinfectants as they impart an off-flavor in beer, most often described as a metallic, medicinal, or “plastic” taste. In addition, removal of chlorine and chloramines is an important pre-treatment step to prolong the life of our system’s reverse osmosis(RO) and nanofiltration(NF) membranes. The first step in our filtration process is to run the water through a catalytic carbon filter. This removes the chlorine and chloramines, trihalomethanes (THMs), pesticides, and any strange tastes and bad odors from our source water. We will combine our catalytic carbon filter with a hydrogen peroxide injection system to remove iron, magnesium, and sulfur from our water as well. The hydrogen peroxide acts as an oxidizer, turning the contaminants into solids that can be filtered out.
After the catalytic carbon filter, reverse osmosis membranes remove the minerals in the water. This almost 100% pure water forms the foundation of our brewing water, upon which our brewers can build the desired chemical profile from scratch by adding brewing salts such as calcium chloride, gypsum (calcium sulfate) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). For example, chlorides and sulfates impact strong flavors but do not affect pH the same way as calcium and alkalinity. Chloride adds sweetness and fullness to malty beers; whereas, sulfate accentuates the bitterness of hoppy beers.
To keep our brewing water free of microbes and bacteria in our storage tank after filtration, we will deploy an ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection system. UV light is capable of killing 99.99% of bacteria and viruses and completely breaking down total organic carbon (TOC). Our Aquafine Swift Beverage UV system offers validated UV for beverage disinfection that exceeds FDA and USEPA compliance requirements. This proven protection safeguards against virtually all microorganisms, including cryptosporidium, giardia and adenovirus, providing greater safety and peace of mind.