Adapted from Bill Chappell’s “To Grow a Craft Beer Business, The Secret’s in the Water” in NPR’s Food Blog, The Salt.
There is no denying that the popularity and brewing of craft beer is on the rise. Obviously this has great benefits, but there are often factors that have to be reworked as breweries expand in order to preserve the craftiness that a particular brew has come to be known for.
In a recent NPR article, “To Grow a Craft Beer Business, The Secret’s In The Water”, author Bill Chappell discusses the importance of the flavor and mineral content of water in order to preserve many craft beer recipes. The success of the craft beer industry has led to a demand for some popular brews to expand beyond their home states.
For example, California’s Sierra Nevada is expanding into North Carolina. While this leap is great not only for business, but also for the new customers that will enjoy locally produced, fresher beer, it can also produce some quandaries. Expansion likely forces breweries to modify their recipes or even chemically change their water supplies at the new breweries.
As Chappell writes, “water is an essential part of beer. But its flavor is only part of the equation. Water also supports yeast, which then eats sugar and turns it into alcohol. Those are two reasons why a town’s water supply has long determined what the local beer tastes like.”
The popular movement in craft beer, as well as wine and food has been about bringing it back to its roots. Cited in Chappell’s article, Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver expands on this point, “everything’s been cleaned up so much—in wine, in beer, in food. And a lot of what is going on in craft brewing, in natural winemaking, in food movements, is bringing flavors of real stuff back.”
This focus on the so-called impurities and complexities in water that give a beer its own unique flavor can make it difficult to reproduce when it’s taken out of its original context. As Chappell asks, “what happens when a brewery is perfectly happy with its water—but decides to make the same beer across the country?”
To find out the answer to this question and many others check out Chappell’s full article “To Grow A Craft Beer Business, The Secret’s In The Water”.