Uptown Beer Blog

The Canvas - Part 2/4 of Beer Ingredients: Water

Welcome back. 

This is part 2 of 4 about beer ingredients. Water. Making up anywhere from 85% - 98% of all beer, water should not be overlooked due to its simplicity. Water is essentially the canvas that allows all the other ingredients to come together to make good or bad beer. Sourcing good water has been a long time struggle until late for most brewers.

One of our first (and favourite) guests on our beer tours named Vincent told us, "We had to drink beer in England growing up because the water from the river was so polluted." In Vincent's case breweries were the only source of clean water in the area because they either treated the water they used in brewing, or sourced from somewhere else where it was unharmed from the nearby industry.

Not paying attention to your water quality could lead to failed batches. Usually this failure would occur during the fermentation stage where yeast goes to work to break down sugars, giving off alcohol in the process and turning the soup of malt, hops, water and yeast into beer.

A failed batch is expensive as all of the malt, yeast, hops, water, sanitation, energy and manpower have already been invested. A failed batch also could involve many factors, so in the case of water; one should not take any chances. Without proper water, beer would not become what we know and love. If water is the canvas for beer, mineral content is the hue of the canvas. Minerals allow the beer to ferment properly and turn the batch into a unique product.

In the past big breweries could afford to add large water treatment operations into their process once they realized the importance of water quality and how it changed the beer. It was made exact, with the same mineral content and same PH level for every batch, thus creating consistency. For the smaller beer makers (everything from craft to home brewers) water was somewhat a gamble. They would use whatever was handy. It was too expensive to treat or buy treated, or they had to locate their brewery near a steady, clean source.

Fast forward to present day: science has come a long way in understanding the complexity of water. In turn, water treatment has become much more simplified and affordable. It may be a bit of a bold statement but we can debate this later on over a beer: 

"The improvements in water treatment are a pivotal factor in the craft beer movement." 

Other factors including the reduction of barriers to entry through law, a shift in people's taste preferences and a movement towards buying locally certainly also play a role, but water treatment, chemistry and access has decreased the risk for brewers of all sizes, especially the small guy.

Now brewers of any scale can change the basic canvas to lay down their ingredients with a much better understanding of what results will come. It i s much less of a gamble nowadays. There is still variability with the other ingredients so no batch is completely the same, but making beer consistently good is a must. It all starts with water.

"So, yes! There is such a thing as a bad beer!" This is a topic to itself.

Making consistently bad beer will no doubt kill a business or even worse make your friends find new friends. Bad water equals bad beer. Simlple as that. Do not underestimate it's importance. So let's drink good beer, made with good water, good ingredients and accompanied by good friends!

Beer Uptown right now! - really Saint John, what an amazing place for beer lovers! (Still a hidden gem)

1. Beer to Drink Now!  - Batch 100 Centennial SMaSH Pale Ale, Maybee Brewing - Single Malt and Single Hop = SMaSH. We have tried this a few times...the batches are short, and move quick, so get some. If you do not like it buy it again. We liked the first batch, the second was a bit on the floral side for us. This is a great way to explore simple varieties of hops and malt in a beer. This is just a cool way to make beer on an ongoing basis.

2. Gateway Beer! - West Bound and Brown, Hammond River Brewery - Ok so not everyone likes browns, but as a gateway to other slightly darker beers this is A+. This can introduce you to the nutty and hoppy taste without being brazen. We've always believed balance is key, this is a fine example and will cater to many tastes. Do not be afraid to try this!

3. Most Crowd Pleasing! - Long Bay IPA, Long Bay Brewery - Unfiltered, juicy, citrusy and bitter. What more is there? This beer has a great presence. Unique but simple. An IPA to be proud of. This beer is seriously great. Get some! It appeals to Hop Heads, Fruit Beer Lovers, Unfiltered Fans, and basically everyone!

4. Most Adventurous!  -  Sound Barrier Brown, Picaroons General Store (Saint John) - Ok, side note: this is our office (basically...if you get our drift), so there is some favouritism here, but this is a cool brew. In support of the ongoing noise complaint problem Uptown, and a beer that is not exactly sure of where it stands. Picaroons General Store has just started to brew again. This batch was an unlabelled mash mix that got hopped heavily with unknown hops. Ended up tasting good. Like a tweaked grandmas recipe this turned out to be a great rendition on a classic brown ale. Try it and judge for yourself! See you there! 

Thanks again for following us! Sorry for the delay in our posts. Who knew talking about beer was so much work....See you Uptown!


Derek Dygos