Water has many uses – drinking, washing, swimming in, cooling stuff, heating stuff, pissing in, torturing people with, the list is endless. Surely the most important though is making into beer. No beer can be made without water. I’m fairly certain about this, although I could be wrong. There could be some obscure island in the middle of the Pacific where they make beer from coconut milk or monkey piss or something, but for the purposes of this article, let’s say that water is e-fucking-ssential to the beer making process.
I started out making my beer from water out of my kitchen tap, passed through a household filter jug, presumably containing some sort of charcoal filter. I don’t know really. As tap water goes, it’s very drinkable – my family drinks bucketloads of the stuff and we all have good teeth and our hair hasn’t fallen out so I guess it’s not too bad. Like pretty much all NZ drinking water, it has fluoride added. I have no idea what this would do to beer (to yeast in particular) but it’s probably not a happy encounter, not for the yeast anyway. And I don’t see how a little charcoal filter can remove all the fluoride either. So I’ve been using Speight’s water for the last year or so. This water is allegedly untreated, and it’s what they make their beer from, so I guess it’s OK. It’s certainly more convenient, as I could zip down the hill to the brewery and back a dozen times in the 2 or 3 hrs or so it would take me to filter enough water for a brew. I got myself a 30L camping billy, so between that and a couple of empty milk cartons I can get enough water in one trip.
I did read up fairly intently on water quality when I first started (John Palmer goes into quite a bit of detail in How To Brew), but I’ve forgotten pretty much all that shit, because the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating, and I’ve tasted a LOT of good homebrew beer made from unaltered Speight’s water.
It has a pH of 8.0 which is slightly alkaline. I’m not at the stage where I am interested in mash pH, so I’m just going with what I can get. The other trace elements (fluoride, chloride, nitrate, sulphate, sodium, potassium, phosphate) are seemingly low concentrations, but really, I haven’t a fucking clue if they’re good bad or indifferent (or that different to what comes out of the tap in my kitchen!).
However, apart from anything else, a trip down to the Speight’s tap is pretty much guaranteed to yield an interesting conversation with a fellow brewer, conspiracy theorist, anti-vaxxer, doomsday prepper or other random odd character…