Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Water is the main ingredient in beer, so its quality has a definite influence on beer quality. Though modern brewers can tailor the mineral content of their water to the kind of beer they’re making, early brewers tailored their beers in part to make the best of the local waters. The sulfate-rich water of Burton-on-Trent gave English pale ales a bitterness that limited the use of hops, while the mild water of Pilsen encouraged Czech brewers to add large amounts of bitter and aromatic hops. The alkaline, carbonate-rich waters of Munich, southern England, and Dublin can balance the acidity of dark malts that normally extract too much astringent material from barley husks, and encouraged the development of dark German beers and British porters and stouts.