Author Topic: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs  (Read 1526 times)

Offline nateo

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Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« on: April 22, 2012, 08:53:48 AM »
I really enjoy touring breweries and talking to different brewers. I'm always amazed at how much differing opinion there is about brewing.

The last brewery I went to had a German brewhouse, with a sweet mash agitator in the boil kettle (I assume for decoction mashing? I don't know why else your BK would need a mash agitator.) They didn't do any decoctions though, so I thought it was an odd choice. Maybe they got a good deal on it or something.

They also just used regular municipal water run through a whole-house filter. I asked about their water hardness, since most of the water I've seen in MO is hard as nails. They said their water was really hard, and they tried to brew a Koelsch and it turned out horrible.

I asked if they had tried any softening techniques, like boiling or lime treatment, and the brewer said he doesn't believe in adding any chemicals to his beer. He didn't believe in adding any brewing salts either.

Their beer was OK, not amazing, but above average. They just make the kinds of beer they can with their water, and don't worry trying to make other kinds.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2012, 10:58:27 AM »
I was talking to a fellow commercial brewer the other day and I mentioned the fact that it would be nice to make a kolsch but that you really needed at least part RO water to brew one properly (at least with our local water). He said to me that, yeah, if you are trying to win BJCP medals that's important but if you are just brewing for the public you just get it as close as you can. I didn't completely agree with him but I do see where he is coming from.

As far as the whole house filter goes, we use three whole house filters in a daisy chain. we will move up to a professional system eventually but can't right now. we have tested our water and no chlorine shows up on the test.

I'd love to go with some RO system but they are expensive and I have never really been comfortable with the amount of waste water they generate.
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Offline nateo

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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2012, 11:04:40 AM »
With the system they had, it would've been easy to employ lime or boil softening. I've become more lax about brewing water, but I thought it was odd to say basically "I don't believe in using brewing salts, but super moss is fine."

I've always thought of brewing with salts to be like cooking with spices. The right one in the right amount makes a dish "pop" but the wrong ones, or too much, will make a dish just awful. I've never heard a chef say "I don't believe in using Tarragon" but I've heard a few pro brewers say they don't believe in treating their water in any way.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2012, 11:10:24 AM by nateo »
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Offline boulderbrewer

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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2012, 08:43:37 PM »
I have been working on this for 6 months, I have come up with some things that work for brewing light beer with the high carbonate water. I would love to have a ro system but the water they waste I think it will not work for us on city water. Even though I could get it at cost saving at least 2k. Not doing the slaked lime thing.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2012, 08:47:30 PM by boulderbrewer »
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Offline nateo

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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2012, 06:12:42 AM »
Not doing the slaked lime thing.

Most brewers (home and pro) feel the same way. I'm not really sure why. Kai's website leads me to believe that it's not that unusual in Germany, since the reference he provides is a book by Narziss and Back.

It's super cheap, easy, and very effective for water high in temporary hardness. It's not hard to do consistently either. I just kind of eyeball my measurements, and the water has always ended up within +/- 0.5*dH. My water goes from tremendously hard (30+*dH GH/KH) to 3-4*dH GH and 2-3*dH KH.
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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2012, 07:21:36 AM »
I tried the slaked lime thing a couple times but it was just easier to pick up RO water from the grocery store. On the commercial level all my water comes from an tankless hot water heat (dough-in and sparge) and that convenience trumps water softening. I brew styles that match my water, generally, and use salts and acids to adjust for pH, but I'm not going to be able to do much else about the water for a couple years.
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Offline a10t2

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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2012, 08:21:04 AM »
They also just used regular municipal water run through a whole-house filter.

I'd say this is true of the vast majority of breweries. Some will throw in a handful of gypsum for their hoppy beers, some will throw a handful of gypsum into all their beers, but almost no pro brewers I know obsess about water the way home brewers do.
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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2012, 08:30:13 AM »
That's my experience as well, at least on the smaller breweries.
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Offline nateo

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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2012, 09:28:08 AM »
Without naming names, the brewery I'm talking about was hosting an AHA rally. The beers that the people brought were way better than the beers they made at the brewery. One of the guys was on his 5th extract batch, and his beer was the best there.

He was pretty science-oriented, and I don't think it's common for homebrewers to do that well when they just start out, but what's the point of being a brewery if you can't make better beer than average homebrewers? Why not just have a craft beer bar?

I don't think they need BMC levels of science-nerdery, but I'm pretty sure a little more attention to detail on the part of the brewers would have made better beer.
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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2012, 09:36:50 AM »
I thought you said their beer was "above average"? I'd never fault a brewery too hard for being a solid B. Regardless, maybe it wasn't their water that made the beer less than your expectations warranted. Perhaps it was their recipes. Or perhaps it was just your tastes.
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Offline nateo

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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2012, 09:52:28 AM »
I thought you said their beer was "above average"? I'd never fault a brewery too hard for being a solid B. Regardless, maybe it wasn't their water that made the beer less than your expectations warranted. Perhaps it was their recipes. Or perhaps it was just your tastes.

In the grand scheme of breweries, they were above average. I've been to some really godawful brewpubs, and drank some beer that I would've dumped if I had made it at home, so my baseline for quality isn't that high. I'm definitely picking nits here. I was never happy in school to get a B. Others may have been thrilled to do that well, so maybe I'm being too hard on them.
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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2012, 10:03:49 AM »
what's the point of being a brewery if you can't make better beer than average homebrewers? Why not just have a craft beer bar?

The margins are better on brewing your own beer, and breweries are businesses first and foremost. You don't need to make world-class beer if you're selling every drop of average-quality beer you brew.
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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2012, 10:23:51 AM »
So, you are saying that the average beer you have had from local breweries sucks and this one was a little better than those?  :o ;)
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Offline nateo

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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2012, 11:04:10 AM »
So, you are saying that the average beer you have had from local breweries sucks and this one was a little better than those?  :o ;)

I guess I should clarify. Their IPA, double IPA and ESB were easily in the top 20% of small brewery's beers I've tried. Their lighter beers had some issues. The brewer seemed to think it was because of their hard water. I thought that was a reasonable assumption. That's when we got to talking about water treatment.

He said he had looked into a commercial RO unit, but those are expensive and really wasteful of water (which costs money if you're in the city). I mentioned a few other methods that commercial breweries use (decarb by boiling and lime treatment), which was when he said he didn't believe in adding anything "weird" to their beer.

I just thought it was strange that this brewer both saw that there was an issue with their water, but also didn't believe in changing their water.
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2012, 11:15:21 AM »

As far as the whole house filter goes, we use three whole house filters in a daisy chain. we will move up to a professional system eventually but can't right now. we have tested our water and no chlorine shows up on the test.

I'd love to go with some RO system but they are expensive and I have never really been comfortable with the amount of waste water they generate.

Do you know how much hardness/TDS the filters take out of your water?

How often do you have to change the filters?
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