One of the most refreshing aspects about craft beer for me is the lack of … there’s no polite way to say it … marketing bullshit. I’ve never heard a craft brewer claim their beer was “brewed 33% longer”, or any such ludicrous statement. I’ve always taken it as a sign that craft brewers think their market is too smart to fall for that silliness. Craft brewers, in general, simply describe their beer, the ingredients from which it was made, and some of the flavours one might expect to taste upon drinking it.
There’s a brewery I like very much who make excellent quality beer. The consistency is outstanding among their peers. The beers are clean, subtle, flavoursome, and approachable. The brewer is a cool person, and the sales people are fun too. but something has happened. What started as a joking exchange on Twitter seems to have revealed a bit of “big guy” style marketing. The new thing to do seems to be to go on a lot about how the brewery in question brews with “pure water” and nobody else does. They’ve started referring to fellow craft brewers’ products as “tap water beers”. I think this is a bit much, and it feels ugly.
The claim itself is, of course, marketing nonsense of the highest order. What is “pure water”? H2O? You certainly can’t brew with that. Without sending everyone to sleep, the chemistry involved in brewing beer requires certain amounts of minerals which have all sorts of effects on the pH and flavour profile of the beer – it has an impact on everything from clarity, to flavour, to perceived bitterness, and even to shelf life.
It is possible to brew beer with very soft water – that is, water lacking in much mineral content, but it’s only suited to certain styles of beer, and even then, you still need some mineral content. As a result, every brewery does one of two things: Work with whatever local water supply they have access to (spring, city supply, whatever) and brew beers which suit that water, or they start with a “base” known water profile (could be pure deionised water, or the local source) and treat it to add the mineral profile they require. The end result could be chemically identical (or near as makes no odds) to the brewery claiming to use “pure” water. Just because brewer A gets his water from a mountain stream and brewster B gets hers from the municipal supply, de-chlorinates and filters it, then adds some salts to achieve the exact chemical profile required, doesn’t make either more or less “pure”. Judge the finished beer on flavour, not on perceived quality of ingredients.
In competitions, beer is judged blind. There’s a very good reason for this. Leave the silly marketing tricks to the peddlers of flavourless industrial beer, and please realise that your market is a lot smarter than that.
To the person who inspired this post – no hard feelings, I still love ya man! I just thought it needed to be said.