Author Topic: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?  (Read 9188 times)

Offline MDixon

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #30 on: August 13, 2010, 06:11:19 AM »
Jeez, you ignore a thread for a few days and miss the party.

I'd probably ding for alcohol bitterness as well, but can certainly understand why lessening the body and boosting the alcohol might lead to an impression on increased bitterness. The converse is certainly true for using maltodextrine to boost body and perceived sweetness to counteract an overly bitter or slightly thin or overly dry beer. Of course if the examinee explained "alcohol bitterness" a little I'd be inclined to credit the answer  ;)
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #31 on: August 13, 2010, 08:56:44 AM »
Jeez, you ignore a thread for a few days and miss the party.

I'd probably ding for alcohol bitterness as well, but can certainly understand why lessening the body and boosting the alcohol might lead to an impression on increased bitterness. The converse is certainly true for using maltodextrine to boost body and perceived sweetness to counteract an overly bitter or slightly thin or overly dry beer. Of course if the examinee explained "alcohol bitterness" a little I'd be inclined to credit the answer  ;)
Hi Mike!

I think the problem I have with calling it "alcohol bitterness" is that that's not what it is.  If it's the increased perception of bitterness due to alcohol that's fine, but we don't have terms like "attenuation bitterness" or "body bitterness".  Alcohol bitterness just seems misleading.

Gordon, I'll try it again with some different beers, there might be some BMC at a party I'm going to in a few weeks.  I don't think I have anything suitable in the fridge, the Session was as close as I had.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline thehorse

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #32 on: August 13, 2010, 11:04:34 AM »
Here is my attempt answer the questions below...

First of all, I am very new to adjusting my water.  I figured I should dive right in and try to learn something, and have no assumption that I am 100% correct.  I've read quite a bit on the forums and listed to the podcasts from the BN on water adjustments.  As a VERY BIG generalization here is what I was able to put together and what was used in the water calculations used in the Saison and Dubbel.  I've been using the water calculation spreadsheet from homebrewtalk (EZ Water Adjustment Spreadsheet) that everyone seems to be using .

1.)  Adjust your RA so that the SRM target is that of your beer
2.)  Adjust the Chloride to Sulfate ratio so that it's in the target range of the beer
3.)  I haven't used acid to adjust PH, and have simply been using salts for that

In the case of the dubbel, my residual Alkalinity was calculated to be 255 which "supposedly" is good for beers in the SRM range of 26 to 31.  My Dubbel recipe calculated out at 30 SRM.  My Chloride to sulfate ratio is .97 (Balance).

I'm assuming that my thinking is probably a little to simplistic, and I would love to know what I am missing?  Is the spreadsheet wrong about needing an RA of 255 for a 30 SRM beer?  Is it just a case of my total Alkalinity being to high, in which I should use some acid to lower the PH for dark beer instead of all salts?

In reviewing the water profiles used in those beers, its appears less likely that alkalinity is the source of harshness percieved in the beers. 

The profile used for the Saison is balanced ionically and the residual alkalinity is near zero.  Conversely, the profile used for the Dubbel is not balanced ionically, suggesting that there is an error in the reported ionic concentrations.  Additionally, the residual alkalinity for the Dubbel profile is an astronomic 256 ppm, which is far too high for good mash performance and taste perception.  That high residual alkalinity could be a contributor to harshness perception and poor mashing performance in any beer.

The indication from the brewer that both of these beers were percieved as harsh suggest that there is some other problem impacting the taste perception. 

I am curious why the brewer used the water profiles he listed.  The Saison profile appears somewhat appropriate for that style, but the sulfate concentration is a bit high for that style and the slighty elevated chloride concentration can contribute to harshness in conjunction with the sulfate.  I would recommend significantly reduced sulfate and chloride for this style.

Understandably, the brewer used a more alkaline water profile for the darker Dubbel style.  I agree with that change, but the level of alkalinity used in that profile was far too high.  Assuming that the hardness remained as he shows, the alkalinity should be reduced to about half the concentration that was used.  Additionally, the sulfate concentration is still too high for a style that is not hop-focused and the chloride concentration in conjunction with the sulfate can also produce a hashness perception.   

I am in agreement with Gordon regarding the overuse of water profile adjustment with some waters.  He and I are currently working on a project for BJCP.  There are some water sources that just are not going to provide a good result, no matter the adjustment with minerals or acids.  Its sometimes best to just start with a distilled or RO source and add only the desired minerals.

Martin Brungard, PE
Carmel, IN

     

Offline dean

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #33 on: August 15, 2010, 06:36:11 AM »
Wow this thread is getting great!  Martin, when you talk about ionic balance, how are you determining whether its balanced or not assuming he is using the same source water?  Is there a ratio between two numbers used to calculate this?  I'm one of those people that learns best by having it beat into me or mistakes made.  Somebody needs to write one of those "for dummies" books and it might do the trick for water/beer chemistry.   :D  If anybody does write one... just write it real slow so I can keep up.   ;D

Offline mabrungard

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #34 on: August 19, 2010, 03:42:55 PM »
Sorry for the delay in responding to this item.  Work interfered.

From Thehorse's response, I note that there may be some misinformation out there that is leading brewers down the wrong path.  This response may help clear that up. 

I had not used the EZ Water spreadsheet since I have more technical tools that I use in my professional capacity as a water resources engineer.  I like the user interface that the EZ Water tool provides, but I note that the results the spreadsheet provides are flawed in several ways. 

I see that the spreadsheet recommends a Residual Alkalinity (RA) target value based on beer color.  In reading the notes in the spreadsheet, the RA recommendation comes from the nomograph shown in How to Brew. 

Several months ago, while working with Gordon Strong on the revision to the water section of the BJCP Study Guide, he mentioned that he has been repeatedly disappointed by brewers that mess too much with their water due to trying to tie RA with SRM.  I am a strong believer in the concept that the brewing water RA should be coordinated with the beer color, so I was taken back by his statement.   Unfortunately, I had not looked closely at the How to Brew nomograph prior to this question.   I now know why he was skeptical with the method.

I can now report that the correlation between RA and SRM that is shown in the How to Brew nomograph is inappropriate.  At low SRM, the nomograph recommends too low a RA target value and at high SRM it recommends too high a RA target value.  I do not know why John Palmer selected that correlation for his nomograph, but a more appropriate relationship between SRM and RA follows. 

RA = SRM x 4.5 

This provides an appropriate ballpark target RA for brewing water.  And that 4.5 factor should not be taken as exact.  A factor between 4 and 5 is also suitable when estimating your brewing water RA.  There is not an exact value for RA, but I do feel that your brewing water should be in the ballpark.  Light beers should have low RA water and dark beers should have higher RA water.  Unfortunately, the How to Brew nomograph has the ability to overdo the RA adjustment.  For really pale beers, it recommends too low a RA and for dark beers, it recomends too high a RA. 

Gordon's concern regarding messing with RA may be justified, but I think that he has only seen the results of this rule of thumb misapplied.  My RA/SRM recommendation should help correct that. 

The other thing that all brewers should also know is that sparge water alkalinity should be reduced to low to moderate levels in order to reduce the possibility of tannin extraction.  So when brewing a dark beer, you do not need to raise the RA of the sparge water.  Add acid to bring the pH of sparge water down to around 6 to 7.  That should be sufficient for all beers.

The other result from the EZ Water spreadsheet that is flawed is the chloride to sulfate ratio recommendation.  I have never seen this ratio used previously, but I can state that it is not based on any texts or journals that I have reviewed.  It is not a proper indicator of the brewing water promoting a malty or bitter character.  In fact, high chloride and sulfate concentrations in brewing water are known to produce harshness.  High sulfate concentration with low chloride concentration can provide smooth accentuated bittering.  Conversely, high chloride concentration with low sulfate concentration can provide an improved sweetness perception.  The concept of a target ratio between these ions is very flawed and should not be used.  I think the spreadsheet author was trying to convey my point that chlorides improve maltiness and sulfate improves bitterness, he just misapplied it.

Regarding Dean's question regarding the ion balance that I mentioned.  The balance is calculated from the millliequivalents of the major cations and anions in the water.  The milliequivalient value for each ion is calculated from the concentration of each ion , the ion's molecular weight and its ionic charge.  The cations and anions should roughly balance if the water report is correct.

I hope this information is useful.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2010, 11:25:07 AM by mabrungard »
Martin B
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #35 on: August 19, 2010, 03:57:44 PM »
RA = SRM x 4.5 

This provides an appropriate ballpark target RA for brewing water.
Great stuff Martin, thanks.  What do you would recommend if you have negative RA, since the equation doesn't work in that range.  Just either brew really light beer or adjust your water? :)

Tom Schmidlin

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #36 on: August 19, 2010, 04:24:07 PM »
Martin,

Thank you for these posts.  Earlier in this thread, I had stated that I had been over thinking my mineral additions to RO water, based on score sheets from competitions.  For some beers the score sheets from competitions said that the beers were too astringent.  I have fixed any issues there folowing all the guidelines, but still have lower scores than I was used to.  Except for a N. German Pils that I used the water profile - more or less from Kai's site - which did really well in a local competition and first round NHC.

This thread has helped.  I will be following some of your guidellines in the future.  It also must be said that the water sections from howtobrew.com were what made water chemistry more clear for this engineer who had chemistry a long time ago in a universe far away.  In the future I will follow more of your guidelines and what my pH meter is telling me to do.
Jeff Rankert
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Offline richardt

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #37 on: August 19, 2010, 06:51:57 PM »
Martin,
Thanks for the post.  I like simple rules of thumb (e.g., RA = SRM x 4.5).
How is RA calculated?  Do you have a simple equation or rule of thumb for RA?

Offline thcipriani

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #38 on: August 22, 2010, 12:52:48 AM »
Quote
RA = SRM x 4.5 

This provides an appropriate ballpark target RA for brewing water.

This is ridiculous for so many reasons. First, the relationship between SRM, RA and mash pH is tenous at best. That is to say there is correlation here but most brewing water spreadsheet draw very strong conclusions from this weak correlation. The net effect being that the entire homebrewing community suffers. If Gordon Strong doesn't want want anything in style guidelines about the relationship between RA and beer SRM it's because he's had to taste too many of the salty "Alka Selzer" beers that result from the jump of logic.
Some reading that is worth while about the subject of RA, Color and mash pH:

http://ajdel.wetnewf.org:81/Brewing_articles/BT_Alkalinity_II/AlkalinityPtII.pdf
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Beer_color,_alkalinity_and_mash_pH

Second, while I agree that many contemporary sources for RA and subsequent water adjustments are flawed those sources were created by many individuals who have devoted a great deal of time an effort into this work - oversimplifying their work into this equation doesn't serve any purpose except to mislead those people who are ignorant about water chemistry and RA.

One quick example to prove my point. I have a RIS that has a calculated SRM (Morey) of 67. According to your formula that would require a RA of 301.5. In order to achieve this RA (ppm as CaCO3) in my water (which represents a best case scenario since my water has 0 hardness from Ca++ or Mg++) I would have to add 1312ppm CaCO3 which is close to 50g of Chalk in 10gallons of treated water. I brew my Black IPA with water that has a RA of 0 and the mash pH on the last batch was 5.5 - which is on the high end for me. I have no doubt that following this "formula" and using the RA value of 153 and subsequently adding 24 grams of Chalk to my water would have not only put my mash pH out of range it would have made my beer taste like hop-flavored tums.

If people are really concerned with mash pH they have to drop $80 and get a pH meter. If you're concerned with hitting the mash pH correctly every time then you ought to be doing a test mash before your brew day and scaling up your findings (which I don't do because my mash pH needs no adjustment 90% of the time). I'm going to say the one thing everyone hates to see in a forum discussion about water - the vast majority of water needs no adjustment. Brewers that suspect problems with their water are most often misidentifying another problem in their process. Sanitation and fermentation before water adjustment - always! If you want to tinker then build a yeast library not a salt library. I adjust my water to acheive 50 mg/L Ca++ with, typically, equal parts Calcium Chloride and Gypsum. Speaking of which...

Quote
The other result from the EZ Water spreadsheet that is flawed is the chloride to sulfate ratio recommendation.  I have never seen this ratio used previously, but I can state that it is not based on any texts or journals that I have reviewed.  It is not a proper indicator of the brewing water promoting a malty or bitter character.

Handbook of Brewing [Ed. Fergus Priest and Graham Stewart] p. 111 - "It appears that, in many cases, it is the relative ratio of the two ions that has the major flavor influence, often irrespective of the accompanying cations."

(note that I haven't read that text either - AJ Delange has, and was kind enough to post this citation here: http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=21450&start=0)

Quote
The balance is calculated from the millliequivalents of the major cations and anions in the water.  The milliequivalient value for each ion is calculated from the concentration of each ion , the ion's molecular weight and its ionic charge.  The cations and anions should roughly balance if the water report is correct.

This is the problem with trying to achieve many regional water specifications found around the internet - they are not physically realizable because the the me/L of cations and anions don't balance - like at all...but they don't on my most recent Ward Labs report either so whatever...

End Rant.
Tyler Cipriani
Longmont, CO

Offline thehorse

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #39 on: August 24, 2010, 07:49:09 AM »
First of all, I can't tell you how much I've learned from this thread and I believe I'm starting to understand a little.  Here is my next question...

My dubbel recipe stated above using my standard water profile comes out to a pH of 5.0 using Kai's spreadsheet.  The only way to get the pH to around 5.2 (which seems to be a little low based on his writing) is to add around 200 PPM of chalk and baking soda to  the water.  This results in the following water profile.  Would you guys make this addition for the pH shift or leave the pH at 5.0 and just be done???

range*      
50-150   107.1   Ca mg/l
10-30   7.0   Mg mg/l
0-150   70.8   Na mg/l
0-350   49.0   SO4 mg/l
0-250   18.0   Cl mg/l
   337.5   HCO3 mg/l
   276.6    as CaCO3
      
RA   196.00    as CaCO3
pH shift   0.21



Offline thcipriani

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #40 on: August 25, 2010, 10:33:14 AM »
Quote
Would you guys make this addition for the pH shift or leave the pH at 5.0 and just be done?

I would make the adjustment if, while in the process of doing the mash, I had taken a pH reading of 5.0 - Kai's spreadsheet can provide an estimate to get you close to the actual pH of the mash - what the spreadsheet calculates isn't always exact. This is especially true of dark beers.

If you want an exact answer to your question and you have a pH meter or colorpHast strips (less reliable) do a test mash and take a pH reading and then make the decision.

Based on the information you have currently made available I would not make any additions. RA values North of 150ppm as CaCO3 are rarely necessary to adjust pH.

If you provide your starting water profile I may be able to give you a different answer based on my experience, but I probably wouldn't end up changing my answer. Just my $0.02.
Tyler Cipriani
Longmont, CO

Offline thehorse

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #41 on: August 25, 2010, 12:48:10 PM »
thcipriani, I would love to know what you would do for a water profile.  I live in Denver and we have pretty good water with the exception of low CA.  I think I mentioned it earlier, but I used Kai's spreadsheet and I come up with about 5.0 PH.  I was under the impression I should probably up the pH?  Just seeing an example would be a huge help

Thanks!!!

Water Profile
Calcium   Magnesium   Sodium   Chloride   Sulfate           
(Ca ppm)   (Mg ppm)           (Na ppm)   (Cl ppm)   (SO4 ppm)        Alkalinity (CaCO3 ppm)   
    27                   7                16       18             49                       54   



Belgium Dubbel #1 - Belgian Dubbel
================================================================================
Batch Size: 11.000 gal
Boil Size: 12.650 gal
Boil Time: 1.500 hr
Efficiency: 70%
OG: 1.072
FG: 1.072
ABV: 0.0%
Bitterness: 25.5 IBUs (Tinseth)
Color: 31 SRM (Morey)

Fermentables
================================================================================
                   Name  Type    Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
       Colorado Pilsner Grain 21.200 lb    Yes   No   80%   2 L
      Munich Malt - 10L Grain  2.000 lb    Yes   No   77%  10 L
          Aromatic Malt Grain 16.000 oz    Yes   No   78%  26 L
         Special B Malt Grain 16.000 oz    Yes   No   65% 180 L
      Candi Sugar, Dark Sugar  2.000 lb     No   No   78% 275 L
        Caramunich Malt Grain 16.000 oz    Yes   No   72%  56 L
 Sugar, Table (Sucrose) Sugar  8.000 oz     No   No  100%   1 L
Total grain: 28.700 lb

Hops
================================================================================
      Name Alpha   Amount  Use     Time   Form  IBU
 Hallertau  3.3% 5.500 oz Boil 1.000 hr Pellet 25.5

Offline thcipriani

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #42 on: August 25, 2010, 09:37:38 PM »
thehorse, I am by no means an expert on anything - perhaps especially water, but I can tell you what I would do given your situation.

The best course of action depends on your goals.

If you're attempting to hit a mash pH in the range of 5.2 - 5.8 then I wouldn't do anything to your water. I would go and buy a pH meter or colorpHast strips, dough in, and take a pH reading - if that reading is out of your ideal range THEN add CaCO3 or lactic acid and test again. While brew water spreadsheets can be helpful in calculating necessary additions to reach a certain mash pH no spreadsheet will be right 100% of the time (they are especially prone to error in a beer like a Belgian dubbel where the SRM value is somewhat of a red herring) - I hold no actual answers for what to do to your water to achieve a perfect mash pH every time you brew. All I know is that I know nothing - and that's more than most people can say.

If you're looking to meet minimum requirements set forth by popular opinion then add enough CaCl2 to your water to achieve Ca++ content of ~50mg/L (equivalent to ppm). This will help to shield enzymes in the mash and help certain aspects of fermentation (Fix, Principles of Brew Science pg 5-6).

If you're worried about both of these things I would add enough Calcium Chloride to achieve 50ppm Ca++ as the ion and then perform your mash and check to see if your pH is in the correct range.

If your goal is historical accuracy then I would attempt to synthesize the water of a Westvleteren or another Trappist monastery - all of these water profiles are available in Brew Like a Monk (Chapter 7 has a subchapter devoted entirely to the subject of water for brewing Trappist style beers) - caveat emptor, I haven't checked to see if any of the water profiles in BLAM are electrically balanced.

If I were brewing this beer, given my current philosophy of how I do my water, I would simply add 1 or 2 grams of Calcium Chloride per 5 gallons of water to get my Calcium level to around 50ppm and then check my mash pH against my target range and adjust. If I didn't have a pH meter then I probably wouldn't do anything with your water - just brew the beer and if it tastes off and all the other parts of my process were done well then I might look at water adjustments.

My understanding is that you're using Kai's spreadsheet correctly, and, if you would like to follow that spreadsheet it'd be a route that Kai has put a lot of time and effort into and it is very well researched. However, if you do decide to follow the prescription set forth on the spreadsheet what I said above still applies, check your mash pH and adjust up or down with CaCO3 and Lactic acid (or gypsum or calcium chloride) respectfully.

Let us know what you decide.

The Denver profile is pretty different from the water our here in Longmont - our water makes yours look like Burton on Trent. Lower numbers than Pilsen, it's weird. I didn't even believe the water authority when he said that it was practically distilled - did a Ward labs test and sure enough...
Tyler Cipriani
Longmont, CO

Offline thcipriani

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #43 on: August 30, 2010, 09:15:20 AM »
Also, as an aside/tangent, all of the profiles for water listed in Chapter 7 of BLAM seem to be electrically balanced at a reasonable pH with the exception of Achel - which I was only able to bring to electrical balance at a pH of 9.3 - which is not a reasonable pH for water.

thehorse, the profile you provided is also not electrically balanced at a reasonable pH, this is indicative of incomplete or inaccurate data in your source water report. However, event my Ward labs report is not balanced (and it says so right at the top [in cation/anion balance]) - if you'd like to begin to synthesize water profiles you'll likely have to fudge your profile a bit to start with in order to achieve a reasonable result - but it doesn't seem like you have to tweak your profile too much to get it to balance as seen here:

Denver water profile is (in ppm as the ion unless otherwise indicated):

pH: 7.0
Calcium: 27
Magnesium: 7
Alkalinity (as CaCO3): 56.65
Sulfate: 49
Chloride: 18
Sodium: 16

Another aside to calculate RA use a spreadsheet or this formula:

RA = alkalinity - ([Ca++]/7 + [Mg++]/3.5)
All in the same units either as ppm as CaCO3, Meq/L or dH

1 dH = 17.848 CaCO3 mg/L * (Molar Weight of an ion) / (Molar Weight of CaCO3)

(also FYI 1 milliequivalent per liter (mEq/l) = 2.8 dH = 50 ppm)

1 dH Ca++ = 17.848 * 40 / 100
          = 7.1392
27 ppm Ca++ as the ion in dH = 27/7.1392
                             = 3.78194 ppm Ca as CaCO3
                     
1 dH Mg++ = 17.848 CaCO3 mg/L * 24.3 / 100
          = 4.33706
7 ppm Mg++ as the ion in dH = 7/4.33706
                     = 1.614
                     
1 dH CaCO3 = 17.848 mg/L CaCO3 * 100/100 = 17.848
56.65 ppm CaCO3 in dH = 56.65/17.848
                 = 3.17403

RA = 3.17403 - (3.78194 + .5(1.614))/3.5
   = 1.8629042857142857142857142857143 dH

RA as CaCO3 = 1.8629042857142857142857142857143 dH * 17.848 mg/L CaCO3
         = 33.249115691428571428571428571429
         ~= 33.25 ppm as CaCO3
         
or calculate Meq/L of all ions and multiply by 50 to get to ppm as CaCO3

Here's the Westmalle profile (in ppm as the ion unless otherwise specified):

pH: 7.4
Calcium: 41
magnesium: 8
Alkalinity (as CaCO3): 70.84
Bicarbonate: 91.31
Sulfate: 62
Chloride: 26
Sodium: 16
RA ~= 36.91ppm as CaCO3

Hopefully this info'll help you with your current water question and your future water endevors.
Tyler Cipriani
Longmont, CO

Offline ipaisay

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #44 on: August 30, 2010, 07:17:59 PM »
This is an awesome thread.  For all of those that have been giving the AHA forum a bad rap have not even bothered to read the AHA forum.

However, I would like to add that one can get too carried away with the science of brewing and in the end, you need to respect the beer as an art.  All of the brewing that has occurred to give us the brewing styles we covet were "mistakes" that just happen to be favorable to the local water.  You should all find a beer, or beer style that works with your local water and enjoy that beer, understand why that beer works, and then go out and make other beer styles by tweaking your water.  In the end, you will learn more from brewing with using your local water report (assuming you adjust the chlorine content) than trying to mimic some beer style from a far off land.