Monday, April 19, 2010

Brewing With Oshkosh Water

If you’re brewing beer with water supplied by the City of Oshkosh you can consider yourself lucky. We have good water for making beer. It’s fairly neutral and well suited for most styles of Ale and Lager. The majority of brewers I’ve talked with over the past couple months do nothing to treat their water. The few who do aren’t doing much more than using Campden tablets to strip the chlorine from it. At the commercial level, the brewers at Fratellos sometimes use acidulated malt to lower their mash pH, but as Head Brewer Kevin Bowen succinctly puts it, “the water source for Oshkosh doesn't require much tweaking, so I don't.”

With that in mind, it’s still a good idea to get know the make-up of your water and its influence on the beer your brewing. In the next month or so, I’ll be posting a couple simple methods for treating Oshkosh water to brighten hop flavor and create a richer malt profile, but for today let’s concentrate on which styles of beer are best suited for the water coming straight out of the tap in Oshkosh.

Below are two charts. The first is a current City of Oshkosh water profile supplied by Stephan Brand of the Oshkosh Water Utility. The second is a simple water calculator created by John Palmer and presented in his book How To Brew. By plugging the Oshkosh numbers into the calculator you can see that the water here is best suited for beers where the residual alkalinity of the mash pH hovers around 5.9.

Have your eyes begun to glaze over yet? Let’s cut to the chase. What this boils down to is that Oshkosh water is particularly well suited for just about any style of Ale or Lager that tends towards Amber, Red or Brown. Hovering in that middle area means that most styles neighboring that range should do well, also. So everything from Pale Ales all the way through to Porters should do just fine with the water we have here. That’s about 80% of the beer listed in the BJCP Style Guide. And if that’s not enough, you can always start treating your water. We’ll get to that, too. Someday.

City of Oshkosh Water Profile
  • Chloride: 25 ppm   
  • Sulfate:  27 ppm   
  • Calcium: 42 ppm   
  • Magnesium: 26 ppm   
  • Sodium: 10 ppm   
  • Alkalinity: 120-160 pm

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