Ward Labs Mineral Analysis of Tree House Julius (Again)

Since its publishing last year, my Ward Labs Mineral Analysis of Tree House Julius post has received more than 7,000 views - far and away my most popular blog post ever! But it's not surprising; Tree House Brewing Company is arguably the world's top New England IPA brewery and head brewer Nathan Lanier is notoriously tight lipped about his recipes and processes.

Since its publishing last year, my Ward Labs Mineral Analysis of Tree House Julius post has received more than 7,000 views – far and away my most popular blog post ever! But it’s not surprising; Tree House Brewing Company is arguably the world’s top New England IPA brewery and head brewer Nathan Lanier is notoriously tight lipped about his recipes and processes.

The intent behind the mineral analysis of Julius was to establish a target for my own Mountain IPA recipe to emulate its mouthfeel. Since the mineral analysis reports the finished beer profile (NOT starting water profile), I extrapolated the results from Brew Your Own‘s “How Water Minerals Change Through Brewing” by Michael Tonsmeire to reverse engineer the approximate starting water profile of Julius. As previously stated, this is a crude approximation that makes many assumptions and may not be accurate, however, it is better than nothing in my mind.

But how consistent is Julius from batch to batch? While several homebrewers have tested various beers for mineral analysis, none have tested a individual beer more than once (to my knowledge). So I did exactly that! I shipped a 2020 can of Julius to Ward Lab for mineral analysis and compared the results to the 2019 version.

Ward Lab W-501 Brewer’s Test for Tree House Julius

Tree House Julius 3/19/2019 14:41:23 can was shipped to Ward Lab on 3/25/2019 and analyzed on 3/29/2019. Tree House Julius 7/23/2020 08:20:22 can was shipped to Ward Lab on 8/20/2020 and analyzed on 8/24/2020.

# Change% Change
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm15931699+ 106+ 7
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm2.652.83+ 0.18+ 7
Cations, me/L48.547.1– 1.4– 3
Anions, me/L21.822.8+ 1.0+ 5
Sodium, Na ppm3234+ 2+ 6
Potassium, K ppm11111223+ 112+ 10
Calcium, Ca ppm6457.4-7.4– 10
Magnesium, Mg ppm185137– 48– 26
Total Hardness, CaCo3 ppm931713– 218– 23
Nitrate, NO3 ppm*3855+ 17+ 45
Sulfate, SO4 ppm**474354– 120– 25
Chloride, Cl ppm299376+ 77+ 26
Carbonate, CO3 ppm< 1.0< 1.000
Bicarbonate, HCO3 ppm172231+ 59+ 34
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 ppm141189+ 48+ 34
Total Phosphorus, P ppm361.80387.60+ 26+ 7
Total Iron, Fe ppm< 0.010.13+ 0.12+ 1200
*multiplied by 4.43 to convert to N03
**multiplied by 3 to convert to SO4

The average percent difference between the 2019 and 2020 Julius samples is 14%, though excluding the total iron result reduces the average percent difference to just 3%. But as you can see, there are significant changes among most of the critical water chemistry minerals (calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, and sulfate) – up to 120 ppm! I won’t speculate on why there is a difference between the samples – there are too many potential factors.

To make things easier to digest, I tabulated the minimum, maximum, and average values for the five critical water chemistry minerals from the two Julius samples above:

Critical Mineral Range for Tree House Julius

Calcium, Ca ppm576461
Magnesium, Mg ppm137185161
Sodium, Na ppm323433
Chloride, Cl ppm299376338
Sulfate, SO4 ppm**354474414
**multiplied by 3 to convert to SO4

Extrapolating Tonsmeire’s results (once again) produces the following starting water profile approximations for Tree House Julius:

Approximate Starting Water Profiles for Tree House Julius

Calcium, Ca ppm8910096
Magnesium, Mg ppm465
Sodium, Na ppm101110
Chloride, Cl ppm175220198
Sulfate, SO4 ppm**100134117
**multiplied by 3 to convert to SO4

When using distilled water, the table above suggests using 0.63 – 0.80 (0.72) g/gal gypsum, 0.70 – 0.80 (0.72) g/gal calcium chloride, 0.07 – 0.10 (0.10) g/gal Epsom salt, 0.50 – 0.70 (0.70) g/gal magnesium chloride and 0.20 – 0.25 (0.25) g/gal canning salt. These brewing salt additions should get your finished beer in the ballpark of Julius, but considering the many variables, it’s not a guarantee. The only way to know for certain is to test your own beer throughout the brewing process like Tonsmeire. Once I “finish” my Mountain IPA recipe – that’s what I plan to do.

In the meantime, stay tuned for Ward Lab mineral analyses of additional Tree House beers!

12 Responses

    1. Thanks for sharing.

      I have a ton of respect for Martin and appreciate his comments (it’s also quite cool this caught his radar!).

      I did share a similar caveat in my 2019 post – unless you are using the same exact other variables, this back-calculation is more fun than scientific.

      But I do think these results provide valuable insight – maybe not necessarily to reverse engineer Julius but at the very least to demonstrate how great NEIPAs can be produced with very different beer chemical analyses (i.e 2014 Heady Topper vs 2019 Julius vs 2020 Julius). Perhaps starting water chemistry is not as critical as we thought? Or maybe only some minerals are important to dial in?

      Who knows!

  1. “In the case of beer, malt and hops supply a huge amount of elemental content to the beer. That content is actually many times greater than the elemental (mineral) content supplied by the water. So even if water quality was a significant percentage of beer, it wouldn’t be discernable in a chemical analysis.”

    Sure, but if you can estimate the minerals added by malt and hops, you can estimate the starting water profile.

    Yes, it’s a crude estimate.

    Thank you for posting these profiles of Julius. I would guess the new can you had analyzed started around 150 ppm sulfate and 150 ppm chloride.

    1. Thanks for pointing this out.

      On the 2019 report, I shared the raw Nitrate (NO3-N) value from Ward Labs. Based on the Bru’n Water Report Input, that value should be multiplied by 4.43 to yield NO3. Therefore, the 2019 NO3 measurement is 38 and the 2020 is 55. And yes, these seem high but keep in mind The Alchemist Heady Topper clocked in at 78 and I have run some other samples (posts forthcoming) at 77 and 101. Even the Suarez pilsners I had tested came in at 18 and 46ppm. So while it may seem high in water, it may not be considered high levels for beer.

  2. So comparing the values on Tonsmeire article of his water to beer, it’s interesting that the Potassium (K) is so much higher in the TreeHouse water than it is in Tonsmeire’s water. In addition, the Calcium you have above for Julius (61) is much lower than what Tonsmeire’s water fell to. It makes me think that some of that ultra soft NEIPA is keeping Ca down and perhaps driven by KCl additions to boost Chloride. Thoughts on KCl?

    1. I ran some other TH samples which I’ll post about before the end of the year. They range from 1111 to 1592ppm of K. As you pointed out, the TH numbers are more than double what Tonsmeire had for his experiment beer and it’s also almost double the results from the 2014 can of Heady Topper. Note that HT and Tonsmeire’s beer K levels were in line with Suarez Palatine and Qualify Pils beers I had tested in 2019.

      So I think it’s very likely the excessive K is coming from KCl additions.

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