Water is an important contributor to the mouthfeel softness of New England IPA. Specifically, calcium, sulfate, and chloride levels are considered important in NEIPAs due to their ability to influence clarity, dryness, and maltiness, respectively.
For example, Brülosophy found tasters were able to reliably distinguish beers made with water consisting of opposite sulfate/chloride ratios (150/50 ppm compared to 50/150 ppm).
Scott Janish’s research on NEIPA has led to a recommended target water profile consisting of less than 200 ppm chloride and a sulfate/chloride ratio of 1:1.
WeldWerks Brewing Co. recommends 125 – 150 ppm calcium, 75 – 100 ppm sulfate, and 175 – 200 ppm chloride.
For his popular Tired Hands HopHands clone, Ed Coffey (Ales of the Riverwards) uses 132 ppm calcium, 146 ppm sulfate, and 147 ppm chloride.
Similarly, Mike Tonsmeire (The Mad Fermentationist) brewed a Cryo Lupulin NEIPA using a target water profile of 150 ppm calcium, 150 ppm sulfate, and 150 ppm chloride. That beer is currently regarded as one of his favorite NEIPA batches. On BeerSmith Podcast #166 – Brewing New England IPAs, Tonsmeire confirmed that he has been really happy with that profile at Sapwood Cellars.
In the September 2017 issue of Brew Your Own, Tonsmeire wrote an article that examined how water minerals change throughout the brewing process. He brewed a 1.060 OG NEIPA with 79% Rahr 2-Row, 14% Weyermann Pale Wheat, 4% Gambrinus Honey Malt, 2% Bairds Light Carastan, 1% Weyermann Acidulated Malt, BRU-1 and Experimental Stone Fruit hops, WLP007 Dry English Ale yeast, and treated water (see below). He sent a sample of the treated water and finished NEIPA to Ward Labs for mineral analyses. The chart below summarizes the test results:
Tonsmeire Homebrew Experiment
|Water||Beer||# Change||% Change|
|Calcium (Ca), ppm||163||104||– 59||– 36|
|Magnesium (Mg), ppm||4||127||+ 123||+ 3075|
|Sodium (Na), ppm||14||45||+ 31||+ 221|
|Sulfate (SO4), ppm||90||318||+ 228||+ 253|
|Chloride (Cl), ppm||262||448||+ 186||+ 71|
Tonsmeire found the mineral profile changed drastically from water to beer. The 59 ppm (36%) decrease in calcium was attributed to precipitation of calcium phosphate during the mash. All increases were attributed to malt, hop, and/or yeast contributions – with notable, significant increases in sulfate (228 ppm/253%) and chloride (186 ppm/71%), respectively. These results encouraged me to reexamine the water chemistry for my Mountain IPA recipe.
How would the mineral analysis of my favorite commercial NEIPA compared to Tonsmeire’s homebrewed version? After all, starting water profile was only part of the equation – different malt, hop, and yeast combinations would yield a different finished beer profile. On my latest trip back east to Massachusetts, I purchased a three-day-old can of my favorite NEIPA, Tree House Julius, and shipped it to Ward Labs for mineral analysis of my own. The results can be found in the table below:
Ward Labs W-5A Brewer’s Test for Tree House Julius
Tree House Julius canned 3/19/2019 14:41:23. Shipped to Ward Labs on 3/25/2019. Analyzed by Ward Labs on 3/29/2019.
|Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm||1593|
|Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm||2.65|
|Cations / Anions, me/L||48.5 / 21.8|
|Sodium (Na), ppm||32|
|Potassium (K), ppm||1111|
|Calcium (Ca), ppm||64|
|Magnesium (Mg), ppm||185|
|Total Hardness (CaCO3), ppm||931|
|Nitrate (NO3-N), ppm||8.6|
|*Sulfate (SO4), ppm||474|
|Chloride (Cl), ppm||299|
|Carbonate (CO3), ppm||< 1.0|
|Bicarbonate (HCO3), ppm||172|
|Total Alkalinity (CaCO3), ppm||141|
|Total Phosphorus (P), ppm||361.80|
|Total Iron (Fe), ppm||< 0.01|
*Converted Ward Labs measured SO4-S to SO4 by multiplying by 3
So how does the mineral analysis of Julius compare Tonsmeire’s Cryo Lupulin NEIPA? And what about carvetop’s Heady Topper and Ryan Crook’s Alter Ego results? Below is a comparison of the mineral analyses of the four beers:
Various Beer Mineral Analyses
|Julius||Alter Ego||Heady Topper||Cryo Lupulin NEIPA|
|Calcium (Ca), ppm||64||34||110||104|
|Magnesium (Mg), ppm||185||105||113||127|
|Sodium (Na), ppm||32||40||25||45|
|Sulfate (SO4), ppm||474||336||468||318|
|Chloride (Cl), ppm||299||421||339||448|
|Potassium (K), ppm||1111||1226||802||775|
|Phosphorus (P), ppm||362||319||278||240|
|Alkalinity (CaCO3), ppm||141||60||< 1.0||< 1.0|
|Hardness (CaCO3), ppm||931||523||746||789|
There are notable differences among the four beers. Most interesting are the differences between Julius and Alter Ego, despite Tree House claiming “Alter Ego is a member of the Julius family, taking the base of Julius and adding a tremendous amount of Mosaic to the dry hop with a kiss of Amarillo.” I doubt the dry hops are entirely responsible for the differences. Perhaps the Alter Ego sample came from Tree House’s Monson brewery where starting water profile was different from current-day Charlton? Or maybe Tree House has continued to tweak the water profile of these beers over the last two years? Or perhaps Julius and Alter Ego aren’t truly the same base beer after all? Who knows.
I also found the low calcium levels of the Tree House beers interesting. Calcium aids in beer clarification and yeast flocculation – could this be a seldom talked about contributor to the NEIPA haze?
After scaling Julius’s beer mineral analysis using Tonsmeire’s % change numbers, the resulting water profile is a rough approximation of what Tree House may use. Of course it’s not an exact science and this calculation makes many assumptions.
Approximate Julius Starting Water Profile
|Calcium (Ca), ppm||64||– 36||87|
|Magnesium (Mg), ppm||185||+ 3075||6|
|Sodium (Na), ppm||32||+ 221||10|
|Sulfate (SO4), ppm||474||+ 253||134|
|Chloride (Cl), ppm||299||+ 71||175|
Based on Tonsmeire’s experiment and the beer analyses above, I think a reasonable starting water profile is ~100 ppm calcium, ~150 ppm sulfate, ~150 ppm chloride and as little sodium and magnesium as possible (< 10 ppm). This should result in the finished NEIPA in the 30 – 50 ppm calcium, 350 – 400 ppm sulfate, 300 – 400 ppm chloride range. This profile falls in line with Janish, Braufessor, and Tonsmeire’s recommendations.
It would be interesting to brew my Mountain IPA recipe (once complete) using 100% untreated reverse osmosis water. Testing the finished beer would reveal the exact contributions from the malt, hops, yeast and brewing process – and exclude any starting water mineral.
Next steps for me include sending samples of my untreated water (Kuna, ID), treated water, and finished Mountain IPA beer to Ward Labs for analysis.
Stay tuned for more commercial beer test results!