Why is water so important to beer?
Reinheitsgebot, or German purity law, dictates that only four ingredients be used to make beer. These ingredients include hops, malt, yeast, and water. While hops and malt can be sourced from all over the world, and yeast can be purchased from labs far and wide, what is given the least amount of attention, yet has an immense impact on beer, is water. In fact, beer contains 90% water.
Here in the states, we like to do some fancy footwork with some of our ingredients of our beers. Whether certain brewing liberties are taken with the addition of coffee beans, local oranges, wheat, peach flavor, tart cherries or honey – what we recognize is the need for good, clean water to begin the process.
What makes hard water hard?
Let’s be frank here – Arizona isn’t known for its high-quality H2O. Our water is hard. It corrodes our pipes, punishes our faucets and hot water heaters, and all but kills our soapy bubbles. Hard water happens when water that has fallen from the sky has dissolved oxygen, and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere then penetrates and dissolve minerals as it makes its way to our reservoirs. We can thank calcium and magnesium (among other minerals) for making this happen. Soft water doesn’t have the opportunity to penetrate through the hard rocks of its environment, therefore, will not absorb minerals as readily.
What can be done to our hard water to give it a more approachable profile for our single-celled amigos to do their job?
At Four Peaks Brewing Co., we take our water pretty darn seriously. We strip our tap water then build it back up with the minerals and nutrients found in areas where we emulate the beer. It helps us start with a clean canvas however without the addition of these minerals, the yeast isn’t happy. And unhappy yeast does not produce good beer.
At both our 8th Street facility and our production facility on Wilson St. in Tempe, AZ, all of our water is treated through the reverse osmosis (R/O) system. It is tested weekly by our lab specialists to ensure that it is sterile and of the highest quality. This water also served to each table at in our pub on 8th Street and our Tasting Room on Wilson St. It even flows through our misting system at the 8th Street location! It’s delicious and considered a perk for our employees too!
According to their website, Tempe water comes from several different sources including, “the Salt River, Verde River and Central Arizona Project (CAP, Colorado River) watersheds” in addition to “several additional water sources” that include “SRP and Tempe wells” with “water […] delivered via the Salt River Project (SRP) canal system.” (City of Tempe)
While many breweries insist on a reverse osmosis system in their facilities, it is not a required step in the brewing process. This is an extra step than many breweries take on to ensure the highest quality of beer that finds its way to you.