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Old 07-01-2013, 01:15 AM   #11
mabrungard's Avatar
Feb 2011
Carmel, IN
Posts: 4,246
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I consider the malty/bitter perceptions attributed to the sulfate/chloride ratio are largely mis-labeled. Apparently, I am not the first to relate this. In Malting and Brewing Science, the authors describe the ratio's effects in terms of fullness or dryness. I more fully agree with that terminology and the Water Knowledge page on the Bru'n Water website was revised months ago to convey that concept.

As mentioned above, sulfate or chloride cannot change bitterness or maltiness, but they MAY improve those perceptions in the finished beer. I have not found that low to moderate sulfate levels are drastically deleterious to beer flavor...even when malty perception is desired in the finished beer. I do find that the low to moderate sulfate can assist in the perception of a dryer finish in the beer and that can be a very important feature to promote in many beers. In my decade+ of judging experience, one of the greatest deficiencies in many homebrews is the lack of an adequately drying finish. That needs to be more of a goal for many homebrewers. There are VERY few successful commercial beers that have excessively sweet or full finish. Adequate drying is important and sulfate is an important component. Don't dismiss it out of hand.

Martin B
Carmel, IN
BJCP National
Foam Blowers of Indiana (FBI)

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Old 07-01-2013, 03:15 PM   #12
Aug 2010
McLean/Ogden, Virginia/Quebec
Posts: 9,283
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Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
I have not found that low to moderate sulfate levels are drastically deleterious to beer flavor...even when malty perception is desired in the finished beer.
It is certainly a matter of personal taste at least to some extent but I and others do find low to modest (in my case 27 ppm) sulfate will ruin lagers (though of course there are lagers brewed with respectable sulfate levels). The generally accepted wisdom seems to be that even modest levels of sulfate is a bad mix with noble hops. I know Gordon Strong is of that opinion as he has said so in at least two talks he gave in which I was in attendance and I believe Kunze says the same in his text (or perhaps it was Narziß). I am certainly on board with that. OTOH I can tolerate higher levels in beers using English cultivars but even with them I can tolerate very hoppy beers only when brewed with modest (47 ppm in the case of the particular establishment I am thinking of) sulfate.

De gustibus non est disputandem and it is because of this that I advocate starting with low sulfate (or no sulfate) and working up especially as the in-the-glass technique seems to work and is obviously pretty easy to do. Of course one could start with no chloride and no sulfate and experiment with both which is really what I suggest but I seems to me (no poll data or anything solid behind this) that people do like the effect of chloride whether they like the effect of sulfate or not.

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