More on Stouts and Water Chemistry

I received the November/Decemeber 2013 issue of Zymurgy to find an article by Martin Brungard on Irish water chemistry. His article aligns quite nicely with my recent ramblings on water chemistry and dark beers. Martin’s article reviews the typical rock formations encountered and finds that while Ireland does have a significant amount of limestone (consistent with highly alkaline water) much of Ireland is not limestone geology and therefore softer, less alkaline waters should be found. He presents water analysis data to suggest that the water in Ireland is, by and large, much softer and less alkaline than is often suggested.  The only potential hiccup in this data is that Dublin is in the limestone geology area of Ireland, and one of the rivers that supplies Dublin can have high levels of hardness and alkalinity, depending on the season. The “typical” Dublin water profile is presented (300+ppm of bicarbonate and a residual alkalinity of 170) but it is immediately discounted as being unsuitable for brewing good beer.  So what is the truth about Irish water?

Martin proposes how Irish brewers could get around this.  Boiling of the hard/alkaline water lowers both the calcium and bicarbonate levels of the water. The article suggests that boiling hard Dublin water would result in a water profile very similar to other areas of Ireland.  So if the brewing water is either relatively soft to begin with or boiled to achieve that end, how did Irish brewers use dark roasted grians successfully?  They mashed without the dark roasted grains, and instead cold steeped the roast barley or added at the very end of the mash.

So it is interesting this article popped up just as I was playing around with these techniques.  I am looking forward to trying the beers I made recently using both of those approaches along with the traditional mashing methods.

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