w - is for Water
The water in Majorca, don’t taste like what it ought-ta

That’s right, it tastes like sangria, because alcohol and sugar have been added to it. Did you know that most wines are about 80-85% water? and orange juice is 90% water? - so sangria is actually flavoured water rather than flavoured wine.

That Jesus fella knew how to work a crowd

Water is ubiquitous. That’s a fancy way of saying that it’s to be found everywhere.

We are all made of water (60% plus some other stuff like carbon), as is all other plant and animal life. The earth’s surface is 71% water, which is lucky because we are 60% water and can’t live without it. Water allows blood to move in our veins and nutrients to pass from one part of our body to another. It keeps us cool when we exercise and show’s terminators that we are puny, red-eyed humans not muscular, Austrian-sounding cyborgs. Water is the universal lubricant that keeps all life on this planet moving.

For something so commonplace, water has properties that are anything but common. In fact it is one of the most unique compounds known to man. From human sacrifice to homeopathy, our relationship with H2O has been an ever-changing love affair, writ large against the backdrop of history, science and discovery. Let’s have a look at what makes water as special as Adam Sandler in that film he did where he really liked water.

As any GCSE student will tell you over zoom, the most well-known, unusual property of water is that it is denser as a liquid than as a solid. Did you know, however, that the tipping point is 4°C, not 0°C. Water actually gets denser and denser ‘til it reaches 4°C and then gets lighter as it approaches freezing. Water at 1°C will float on top of water that is 5°C, and ice will float on top of both. The reason that ice is less dense than water is because the fluid, mobile molecules in liquid water, which are able to pack tightly together (i.e. densely), become rigid and tetrahedral in structure when frozen. This makes the structure 9% more voluminous as a solid and hence less dense. By means of illustration, Imagine a bathtub full of beers all lying side by side and...no need to take the parallel further, that distracting thought is all you need.

We all perceive water to be wet, but perhaps not that it is sticky: it has the second highest surface tension or “stickiness” of any liquid other than mercury. Without this tension water boatmen (insects, not the author) would not be able to skate on its surface, children couldn’t blow soapy bubbles at their parents and detergents wouldn’t penetrate those pesky stains Ainslie Harriott was banging on about in those Fairy commercials.

Impressive stuff, water

I suppose at this point I should say something about how water relates to either friendship, adventure, or beer. So here goes: it takes around ten pints of water to make a pint of beer and, because beer is a stonking 90-95% water, the water that you use is going to affect the taste, big time. It does this in three ways: it affects the pH, which determines how the beer flavours are expressed on your palate; it provides “seasoning” from the sulphate-to-chloride ratio; and it can cause off-flavours from chlorine or contaminants.

While good beer can be brewed with almost any water, proper water adjustment can turn good beer into great beer. Take heed though, meinen jungen braumeister: water should be thought of as the seasoning rather than the dish itself and there is no substitute for good ingredients (barley, hops, etc.).

It is commonly believed that the best beer is made from mountain springwater, and this is generally true, although probably not for the reasons you think. Mountain springwater is good for brewing because it is largely mineral free, which lets the brewers add the mineral salts they feel are necessary for the beer, rather than removing or controlling them. The water is good because it is bland, rather than because it has sprung forth from a magical, virgin spring, and filtered through the dirndls of buxom mountain fraulines.

Historically, many famous beer styles were developed by buxom, dirndl clad fraulines in conjunction with water local to the region, but brewers from every geography have been adjusting their water for as long as they’ve been making beer. For instance, the water of Pilsen (where Pilsner originated) is very soft, free of minerals, and low in bicarbonates, so brewers in this region typically added salts to raise the hardness in the water. On the other hand, brewers in Burton-upon-Trent, famous for its IPAs, frequently pre-boil their water to reduce the hardness. For hoppier beer styles such as American Pale Ale, you can add calcium sulphate to the water to make the beer taste drier and have a crisper, more assertive bitterness; for maltier styles, such as Oktoberfest or Brown Ale, you can add calcium chloride to the water to make the beer taste fuller and sweeter.

Don’t give me problems, give me (aqueous) solutions

While we are yet to find the fountain of youth (apart from you Beyonce WHAT’S YOUR SECRET??), water is as close to a real-life anti-ageing serum as we’ve found. We can live without food for a month but only a matter of days without water. So listen to the Surgeon General and: drink Friendship Adventure to live longer.
Written by Toby Ejsmond-Frey