Excerpt from an interview published on the HydroLogic Blog. Our Brand Manager Sara Schoenhals traveled to Chicago, IL to interview Hagen Dost at Dovetail Brewery, the head brewmaster at one of Chicago’s top brewerys, to talk about how they use their HyperLogic Skid and mineral injection system to recreate the water profile of Pilsen, Czech Republic to brew their own version of Europe’s famous lager.
When did you start your search for a system that could filter and re-mineralize your water and how did you find HyperLogic?
We were familiar with HydroLogic because we were home brewers and we knew the systems you sold through home brew shops. We did a years’ worth of pilot brewing at home twice a week. As we planned our pilot brews, I thought about how to do water preparation at the pilot level of the home brewing level, so we found the HydroLogic Systems Stealth RO.
We then went through the HydroLogic website and saw that you had a commercial site and that the HyperLogic had just come out. We knew from our schooling that the reject rates for RO systems are usually horrible—around four parts wastewater to one part product water. Reading about the HyperLogic RO’s one part waste to four parts product was almost too good to be true. We thought, “Wait a minute, these guys are doing three to four parts product for one part waste.” Even though we’re next to a large source of fresh water, we’re still concerned about waste. That’s how we first reached out to HydroLogic.
Was it easy to work with HyperLogic from there on out?
Yes, very easy. You're that group that's at the top of our sub-supplier list. I shared my calculations with you and we had a little bit of back and forth designing out the skid. Your estimates were where we ended up. Your technical team is very knowledgeable and always available to answer any questions. You gave us exactly what you said you were going to give us. There were a couple of problems along the way that your company corrected immediately. Our entire experience with HyperLogic was everything you could ask for in a good supplier. We recommend HyperLogic to other people all the time.
Why is soft water important for your brewing process?
Chicago has some of the best water in the world because we have an enormous source of fresh water. However, we feel that because water makes up anywhere from 90-95% of beer it has a major effect on the end quality of the beer. In the case of our lager we wanted it to be nice and soft—like the beers of the Czech Republic. To do that, we had to make water that matched the profile of one of our favorite brewing cities in the world, and that’s Pilsen in the Czech Republic. We learned about various methods of water treatment in brewing school. Chicago water is a great brewing water for ales. However, to brew our lager we needed our water to match the profile of the water of Pilsen—with very light minerals and very low TDS.
How has using the chem injectors we provided changed your brewing process or made it easier?
It’s a “set and forget it” system. I know what the targets are—I can even see it. From my calculations, I know that I need to add an additional 18 PPM of calcium and 14 of magnesium sulfate. When I replenish the chem injectors, I just run the system. I make sure everything is running and I don't have to worry about it again until I replenish again. That can be weeks.
For being a new brewery in Chicago, you have a lot of great reviews. Do you feel like using our water treatment system has improved the overall quality and taste of your beer at Dovetail?
There’s no question. The lager is our number one selling beer and that’s the beer where we use this water. Lagers are popular—that’s what these macro breweries are making. We use this water for any beer that's fermented right now with lager yeast. So even a dark beer, like a Rauchbier or our Holiday Bock—any lager we brew is made with the soft water your system creates.
How do people respond to the water tasting portion of your brewery tour?
In the tap room, people taste the beer and they say, “Oh, yeah, this beer is—there’s something about it. It’s great.” When I take people on a tour, we do a water tasting where we compare Chicago tap water to carbon-filtered Chicago water to our Pilsen simulation. We mix some carbon filtered water in, and then we bring up the calcium, the chloride, and the sulfate to the levels where we want it to be to as closely as possible to match Pilsen. We can’t match it exactly but this was an easy way to do it. Chicago city water is high in bicarbonate, so we’re higher in bicarbonate than Pilsen, but it’s still very soft and produces a very pleasant lager. When we do the tasting of the three waters people find it interesting. Usually the reaction I get is: "I’ve never tasted water on a brewery tour before.” People have written reviews about the tour and they say things like, “Believe it or not, tasting water is the most interesting part of the tour.”
Is the water tasting an integral part of every single tour?
It is essential. The water tasting teaches people about beer—in a funny way, you know. On the tour, we like to have people taste all the elements and then we put it back together by drinking the beer. It’s a very good experience. A “taste-on” experience.
Does the water tasting portion of your tour set Dovetail apart from other breweries in the US?
Yes—you go on brewery tours; you just taste the beer; you don’t taste the water. It’s unique, because water is 95% of beer.
Hagen and Bill carefully engineer their beer to ensure each one looks, tastes, and feels incredible on the palate. Their careful fine-tuning of each component translates into their brews, making each one a piece of art. Beer is 90 to 95% water, why not enhance the main ingredient?
Visit Dovetail Brewery’s website to find out how to take their water and beer tasting tour at their website: dovetailbrewery.com
Dovetail Brewery on Facebook.