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Water Chemistry Part 2: Maintaining Consistency Across Our 3 Breweries

Back in 2018, we wrote a blog post called Water Chemistry: the science of brewing epic beers, in which we talked about the importance of water in the brewing process. 

While water is simple to the eye and the taste buds, it is actually a complex chemical compound of salts, ions, and minerals that must be analyzed and adjusted during the brewing process to ensure the correct balance and alkalinity of the beer brewed.
In this follow up article we will discuss how we maintain consistency in water chemistry across all of our breweries, especially as we encountered it last November when we opened our Brisbane brewery and restaurant.

Gold Coast Water vs. Brisbane Water

The concentration of water coming directly from the taps at our two Gold Coast breweries (HQ and BH2) is essentially similar. Slight differences may occur due to plumbing and building infrastructure between the two locations, but the water itself comes from the same source.

When it comes to the chemical composition consistency- of Brisbane water, I suspect it is very different from the water on the Gold Coast. 

So when we confirmed we were opening a Brisbane brewery, one of the first things I did was to do some filtration tests and send some water samples from the Brisbane plant for analysis.
When the results came back, it confirmed my initial thoughts – the water chemistry was really very different and we needed to take that into consistency- account if we were going to keep the beer consistent between the Brisbane and Gold Coast breweries.

Water Chemistry Part 2 Maintaining Consistency Across Our 3 Breweries

Brisbane water not only has a higher chloride to sulphate ratio, but also tends to contain higher levels of “heavy metals” such as iron, which is consistency- undesirable for any beer you brew!

Sulphate to chloride ratios: explaining the difference

The main difference between Gold Coast and Brisbane waters is the ratio of sulphate to chloride (SO4:Cl). Sulphate and chloride are two minerals/ions present in the water that affect the brewing process.
Water with a higher sulfate to chloride ratio helps accentuate consistency- the hop character of the beer, which is usually associated with a bitter, dry, clean flavor. Gold Coast water fits this profile and is ideal for brewing IPAs and pale ales.

Brisbane water is a little “harder” than Gold Coast water and has a higher chloride content (i.e., a higher chloride to sulfate ratio). During the brewing process, 

chloride as an ion really helps to bring out the character of the malt, which brings sweetness to the beer and helps to improve the taste of the beer. This makes it ideal for brewing malty beers, such as strong ales and Belgian beers.

As an interesting contrast (and slightly opposite), New England Pale Ales (NEIPA’s) and Hazy IPA’s will actually brew better beers with “harder” and more chlorinated water. 

For these beers, you want to bring in a little more malt sugar to bring out the juicy tropical fruit flavors so they aren’t overwhelmed by the stronger hops.
So, as you can see, water plays a critical role in getting consistency- your flavors positioned and must be customized to the style of beer you are brewing.

Water Chemistry Part 2 Maintaining Consistency Across Our 3 Breweries

Mick, our head brewer in Brisbane, and I are rigorously testing things like pH levels on a weekly basis to make sure we are always on target.
Our quality lab is our “double check” at the end of consistency- the brewing process to make sure we’re hitting the mark at the brewing stage.
Last but not least, the biggest consistency- results we see are not only in our pH levels or labs, but also in our sensory program, where our flavor results are improving and our sensory scores are improving every week.

 After all these scientific talks, the fundamental reason we put all our efforts into this is to brew the best tasting beer for our consumers.