Order in the next
Hours
Minutes
Seconds
and get your beer by tomorrow! *Mainland UK only

THE JOURNAL

10th Aug 2017 | Homebrew

The solution to water

Why, 175 years ago, did the town of Plzen in what is now the Czech Republic birth a style – the pilsner – that would one day conquer the world?  Why is Dublin’s world-famous beer so black? Did Arthur Guinness simply have a penchant for dark ales? What’s so special about Burton-on-Trent that “Burtonisation” is an actual brewing practice? The answer to all of the above is: water!

By Mark James, Beer Hawk's homebrew buyer

Beer is a solution of chemical compounds in water and without this indispensable life-giving liquid a lot more than brewing would cease to be.

When we talk about the water of Dublin, Burton or Plze? in a brewing context however, we’re referring to the different profiles of dissolved minerals that make each location’s water unique.

You may be surprised how many scientific advances were born of man’s desire to brew better beer; the pH scale that we use to measure acidity or alkalinity was invented by a Danish chemist at the Carlsberg Laboratory in 1909. The best beer is made when the mash’s pH is in the 5.2 – 5.6 range (slightly acidic), but most water sources are slightly alkaline.
How then did brewers hit the pH sweet spot, particularly in days past when bottles of laboratory acids were not an option?

Happily nature provides a solution: malt is acidic, and the darker the roast, the more acidic the grain. In Dublin where the water has a high level of alkalinity, lots of dark malt brings the pH down to the ideal level and a classic dry stout is born.

At the other end of the spectrum, Plze?’s water is so soft and free of minerals that the lightest malts alone provide sufficient acidity to hit the desired mash pH. It was here therefore that on 5th October 1842, the Bavarian brewer Josef Groll presented a bottom-fermented beer with a paleness hitherto unseen, a ‘Pilsner’, and the rest as they say, is history.

Related Articles

3 ways to pimp your homebrew

That kit you just made? It worked! Now you’re looking for a little more punch. Here's how

24th May 2017
in Homebrew

Which are the easiest beer styles to brew at home?

Beer Hawk's beer buyer and resident homebrew expert Mark James goes through some of the beers you should be starting your homebrewing careeer with

21st Mar 2017
in Homebrew

My first all-grain brew: BrewDog IPA

After a few extract kit brews, Daniel Neilson is inspired to take the next step to all-grain brewing. In a gripping, suspenseful series of articles discover the...

05th Apr 2017
in Homebrew

Leave a comment

Reply to

0 comments

Beer Hawk is rated 4.39 stars by Reviews.co.uk based on 5606 merchant reviews

4.39 / 5 Rating
5606 Reviews
Because you supply amazing beers from around the world:)
Great range and quality of beers and speedy delivery. However, the delivery instructions were not carried out properly. We were out and the pre-arranged place was ignored. The driver left the box outside the front door on full display for 48 hours until we got home. Not ideal.
We are working our way through the box. The selection was excellent as we were looking for a big variety and that's what we got!
Please Wait...