Craft Beer is Really Cool!

Craft Beer is Really Cool!
By Mark Timmons
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Craft Beer is Really Cool!

One of the fastest growing segments of the beverage industry is the Craft Beer category.  Consider these statistics from the Brewers Association (which is the voice of Craft Brewers):

  • Craft brewers currently provide an estimated 108,440 jobs in the U.S., including serving staff in brewpubs.
  • Growth of the craft brewing industry in 2012 was 15% by volume and 17% by dollars compared to growth in 2011 of 13% by volume and 15% by dollars.
  • Craft brewers sold an estimated 13,235,917 barrels* of beer in 2012, up from 11,467,337 in 2011.
  • The craft brewing sales share in 2012 was 6.5% by volume and 10.2% by dollars.
  • Craft brewer retail dollar value in 2012 was an estimated $10.2 billion, up from $8.7 billion in 2011.
  • As of March 18, 2013, the Brewers Association is aware of 409 brewery openings in 2012 (310 microbreweries and 99 brewpubs) and 43 brewery closings (18 microbreweries and 25 brewpubs).
  • 2,347 craft breweries operated for some or all of 2012, comprised of 1,132 brewpubs, 1,118 microbreweries and 97 regional craft breweries.

It's an exciting growth business and most brewers know that specialized mixtures of hops, yeast, wheat, barley and other ingredients are essential for a good brew, but water is arguably the most critical and least understood of the foundation elements in brewing beer.  This blog is not going to try and tell you how to brew your beer as the mixtures of hops, yeast, barley and wheat are endless in possibilities.  The purpose of this post is simply to emphasize that the best beer starts with the best water.

Water quality varies dramatically across the country.  Some areas of the country have high levels of hardness (calcium and magnesium) in the water while other areas have extremely low levels of these hardness minerals.  Other areas have high levels of iron, manganese, tannin or sulfur while most areas are plagued by varying levels of chlorine, chlorine, polyphosphates, nitrate, arsenic, TCE, PCB, THM, MTBE and a plethora of bad tastes and odors.  In summary, this is stuff that you don't want in your beer and in fact, is detrimental to the brewing process. 

Most successful brewers realize the essential role that water plays in their brewing process and are incorporating sophisticated water treatment systems into their processes.  Don't think that just because a treatment system is sophisticated that it is cost prohibitive.  In the scheme of things including packaging, storage, tanks and controls, the water treatment system may be one of the biggest bargains  for the craft brewer.

A good water treatment systems for a brewery may look like this:


The above photo is one of our most popular configurations for Micro Breweries and Craft Brewers.  It consists of the following (from left to right):

  1. Backwashing Carbon Filter - The first step to having quality water is to have a backwashing carbon filter that removes chlorine, chemicals, tastes and odors.
  2. Anti-Scalant System - If you live in a part of the county where the water is below 110 mg/l of hardness, then you will not need this or a water softener, but if you are like 85% of the USA, you will likely want to use an anti-scalant ahead of the Reverse Osmosis system so as to not foul the membranes and increase longevity.
  3. Reverse Osmosis System - Actually separates the water and the dissolved solids in it as well as a multitude of other contaminants.  The fact is - reverse osmosis (commonly called RO) removes the largest spectrum of contaminants of any water treatment process.  No brewery should be without it.
  4. Atmospheric Storage Tank - This tank consists of the NSF Certified tank itself as well as a liquid level control float assembly.  There area  variety of sizes and capacities available, from 100 gallons to 2,000 gallons and more.
  5. Re-Pressurization Pump - Typically a Grundfos variable speed pump is utilized to to re-pressurize the high-purity water to the processes.
  6. Ultraviolet disinfection system - The final step of the process is the UV light which assures absolute bacterial purity of the water for the brewing process.
In some cases, a Re-Mineralization Filter is used to add a predetermined amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) back to the water and/or adjust the pH of the water for the beer brewing. Water is the main ingredient of beer.  It only stands to reason that the best beer starts with the best water. To learn more go to our Craft Beer and Beer Brewing Page.
June 22, 2013