Living by the sea in a beautiful part of England is nice, don’t get me wrong. The price you pay for this is the annual influx of what the Cornish call Emmets. People who wouldn’t drive at 4mph weaving all over the because the view is pretty road at home, people who wouldn’t use a junction on an A road as lay by at home, people who wouldn’t walk down a major road with a rucksack looking scornfully at anyone using it to drive to work at home. Put them in Cornwall and their common sense and desire to survive desert them. Fortunately the Cornish folk are laid back, tolerant and welcoming. I’ve been here for 9 years and if they can put up with me they can put up with anyone.
So, seawater in a beer “Are you mad?” you ask. Although I think I have already demonstrated my insanity beyond reasonable doubt, this time there is method in my madness. The bit of beer which is not alcohol is pretty much all water. Chemically, water is two hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen atom, H2O. The water that comes out of the tap, bottle or big bubbly thing in the office isn’t strictly water because it has salts dissolved in it. The water used to brew beer is also not just H2O because it has a precisely controlled salt composition. At least it has in decent breweries. Once the salt composition has been set brewers then call it liquor.
One of the salts important to beer flavour is chloride. http://brewingreality.blogspot.com/2010/02/flavour-compound-of-week-chloride.html Chloride levels are often raised in dark ales to give the beer a more sumptuous and slightly sour note. Sea water is very high in chloride so why not use it as the source of chloride in my Imperial Mild? Seawater also contains a number of salts not generally found in brewing liquor so my hope is that they contribute a marine feel to the beer.
If I was truly insane I would use 100% sea water for the beer. Seawater has nearly 20g of chloride per litre and for Mild I only need 0.3g per litre. The yeast would die before it could ferment the wort and even if it did the beer would taste horrendous. I also undersatnd that plans are afoot, north of the border for the world's saltiest beer and I am not one to stand in the way of barrier breaking. I am watering down my seawater to give me the chloride I need. I am also treating the seawater to remove unwanted bicarbonates which are never good news in brewing liquor. The seawater is going in before I boil the wort so anything which has dropped out of the back of a gull, seal or Pollock will be very dead before it ferments.
Malt: Mild ale malt, crystal, black and roasted barley
Hops: Fuggles, Goldings and Perle,