Don't Cry in Your Beer
US Water Systems sells more water treatment systems for craft beer breweries in the USA than anyone. So, let me preface this with: We love Craft Brewers and enjoy working with them on all sorts of water treatment projects. After all, beer is 95% water and water is the #1 ingredient in your product.
However, recently I learned that about 60 breweries submitted an Amici Curiae Brief ("Friend of the Court") in a case that is attempting to prevent changes in the Clean Water Act. Essentially, the current President wants to relax water regulations and reverse decades of tightening regulations. Many people are up in arms about this and support stronger regulations on our drinking water supplies. That's a good thing... right? DEAD WRONG is what it is.
Here's the long and the short of it: 99% of the water supplied by a municipality is used for things other than internal consumption: fighting fires, irrigation, manufacturing, flushing toilets and a multitude of other usages. Forcing a water treatment plant to treat all the water as if it were to be consumed is like heating an entire city instead of heating the inside of houses or buildings. It's just plain silly, wasteful and very short-sighted!
Laboratories require water that is much higher quality than water any municipality can deliver. Many manufacturing processes require ultra-high purity water, which is also more than any municipality delivers. That involves taking the water at the tap to a much higher degree of purity through reverse osmosis, deionization, ultraviolet disinfection, and other processes. Maybe they should demand that the municipality should deliver ultrapure water? That's ridiculous... right? Of course, it is!
It's also becoming more and more apparent, especially in light of many "emerging contaminants" that it is "economically impracticable" to treat all the water a municipality produces as if it is to be internally consumed, when in fact, 99% of it is for numerous uses other than drinking.
I am frequently in touch with a few craft beer brewers who are shocked that I would suggest they treat their water. They think I am crazy to suggest such a thing... after all, it's just water and its pretty good. WHAT? You take no control over your #1 ingredient? You spend on hops, barley, malt yeast, and equipment to maximize your efficiency and you just use tap water? That is just not smart!
Municipal water varies from day-to-day... by as much as 40%. Certain chemicals, like chlorine, chloramine, disinfection by-products (DBP's) VOC's, and heavy metals vary dramatically from week to week. That means that your brewing water profile is never the same. The IPA you produce today may not even be close next Friday... unless you take control of your water.
Many craft brewers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions of dollars on their property, furnishings, and equipment, but want to rely on tap water? Are you crazy? Beer is 95% water - make it the best it can be. Control your own water quality... and you should know by now that you can't rely on the government. Take control right about now. A quality water treatment system for a brewery costs from $5,000.00 to $20,000 and that's for your #1 ingredient! Trust the government or trust yourself and technology? I know what I prefer...