Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Four Taps

So we learned about the "Four Taps," Lion City's four sources of water.

It's an admirable, and I might add enviable, state of affairs for a small country.

  • Tap#1 is natural rainfall, which if I heard correctly, amounts to about eight feet annually in this tropical locale. Rainfall catchments comprise a large percentage of the island, and the Marina Barrage allows fresh river water to be retained when appropriate or pumped into the sea when necessary (e.g., for flood control). The barrage keeps saltwater out, so the marina went from salty to brackish to fresh within two years of its implementation. Amazing.
  • Tap#2 is "New Water," modeled on Orange County California's waste water recycling program. As the man says, judge our water as we would like to be judged: By our quality, not by our history.  Heh. I wonder how often he gets to use that line?
  • Tap #3 is simply imported water. 
  • Tap #4 is desalinated water, produced via reverse osmosis. Pricey, but an important factor for national security.

Interestingly, our host described reclaimed/R.O. water that is "too clean to drink." This is not an uncommon experience, and many people will relate to an unpleasant experience of drinking distilled or boiled water. Ions, dissolved solids and dissolved gasses all contribute to what we generally don't recognize as the 'taste' of water. They actually add salts and ions back into the water to make it more palatable. (1)

I asked if any brewers in Lion City were using "New Water," and he said no, at least not directly (much of it goes back into the municipal supply to commingle with Taps #1 and #3). Not a snarky question nor a stupid one, because controlling the ions et cetera in the incoming water is probably the single most important step of brewing good beer.

Most of the great English breweries get the character of their finished product from sulfate ions picked up from the chalky soil. Guinness (if I recall correctly) get some of its distinctive flavor from carbonate ions. Anheuser-Busch chose St. Louis for their flagship brewery because, believe it or not, the Mississippi River naturally has the ions appropriate for a czech pilzen style of lager. A-B (or whoever the hell the corporate entity behind the label is this morning) goes to great lengths to recreate that water profile in their breweries around the U.S.

So it's not entirely unreasonable that some enterprising brewmaster would look at a dedicated supply of custom-tailored water as their primary feedstock. We use engineered grains; why not engineered water? And the marketing campaigns for beers brewed with "New Water?" They practically write themselves!

PS: Speaking of imported beers, you should try this great import they have here: It's called "Bud Lite!"

(1) I think I read that someplace.

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