No water, no Great American Beer Festival

Love a big stout or a tasty IPA? Every step of the brewing process requires one essential ingredient.

October 6, 2016 | By: Travis Thompson
American Water Works Association reminds beer lovers of the importance of water with every sip.
American Water Works Association reminds beer lovers of the importance of water with every sip.

More than 60,000 beer connoisseurs will flood the Colorado Convention Center this weekend to taste some really good water.

You read that right. Water.

Since beer is 90 percent H2O, Great American Beer Festival participants will taste more than 3,500 samples of that familiar clear liquid, with a hoppy twist.

If you attend the festival, you’ll learn quite a bit about the brewing process. But if you can’t make it, we created our own version, highlighting, of course, the value of water:

Step 1: Beer needs barley. And barley needs water.

According to North Dakota State University’s Department of Plant Pathology, the average American drinking 20 gallons of beer per year consumes about 21 pounds of barley. Barley requires 15 to 17 inches of water for optimal crop production.

The brewing process begins by soaking malted barley in hot water.  

Step 2: Hops won’t hop without water.

During an average growing season, a hop field requires 20 to 30 inches of water. The amount of hops used in brewing depends on the type of beer you’re making. For a baseline, I turned to The Mad Fermentationist for an IPA (my personal favorite) recipe that uses 1 pound of hops for a 5.5-gallon batch.

Boil the malt with hops for seasoning.

Step 3: Water keeps it clean, so yeast can do its thing.

Sanitation is vital throughout the entire brewing process, and that of course requires water. But having a sterile environment for yeast to begin fermentation is “doubly important,” writes Chris Colby in a Beer & Wine Journal article.

Cool the solution and add yeast to begin fermentation.

Step 4: Water makes the cans, and cans hold the beer.

For starters, water is vital in the production process of making beer cans. And “the lining in cans is a water-based polymer that doesn’t interact with beer,” writes Jeff Wharton about the craft beer cans vs. bottles debate on DrinkCraftBeer.com.

Bottle (or can) the beer with a little bit of sugar to provide carbonation.

For beer lovers, the Great American Beer Festival is a dream come true, with more than 750 breweries pouring their favorites, from amber ales to stouts and flavored specialty beers.

Just remember, as our friends at American Water Works Association like to say: No water, no beer.

Scary thought, huh?

2 thoughts on “No water, no Great American Beer Festival”

  1. And, when we spend millions sending spacecraft into the universe, what is the main thing they are looking for…WATER…People, stop planting non-wild grasses in your yards. Do you really want to spend time mowing, watering, feeding, edging, and raking grass? Artificial turf is the future, embrace it Now.

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