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.
Every year, Beer Hawk releases a lineup of limited edition craft beer mixed cases for the holiday season. This year's lineup of festive Christmas beer gifts is guaranteed to put a smile on everyone’s face.
Remember the childhood excitement of opening a new door on your advent calendar every day in the run up to Christmas? It gave each day a little sparkle of festive magic, even though those tiny chocolates behind the doors were always a bit rubbish. How would you like to recapture that childhood magic, but with bottles of delicious beer instead of powdery chocolate? Sounds amazing, right? In that case, you need to get your hands on our Craft Beer Advent Calendar.
Pairing beer and food together isn’t all rules and science. That would make for a terribly boring dinner party! Instead, it’s the art of taking a good beer, some good food and partnering them together to make something even better. It’s the adventure of discovering what works, what doesn’t and what you like. It’s you taking a bite, taking a sip and then declaring your undying love for that imperial stout and chocolate cake.
Barrel-ageing beers is not a new thing, but it is getting more and more popular, and has probably never been as inventive. Adrian Tierney-Jones explores the new wave of ageing beer in wood
While some so-called off-flavours can be appropriate in certain styles others are not and may kill a little bit of your soul. Here's a quick guide to the most common off-flavours.
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