From the HBD Archive
From: (Richard Hager)
Subject: its the water
Date: 1989-10-26 00:10:27 GMT

I believe the article in the San Diego edition of the L.A. Times quoting
the brewmaster at the Old Columbia has been misinterpreted by Dave Smith.
The brewmaster said that water with mineral content makes the best beer (I
don't recall the exact wording). I believe he was refering to hard vs soft.
He was also quoted as saying that they must process the water. Again I don't
recall whether he actually used the word filter or not so I'm simply
indicating that he said process. The article seemed to be very superficial
no doubt written by a reporter with marginal knowledge on beer. It strikes me
that the content of the brewmaster's quote might have been "processed" by the

I have never been very successful brewing with San Diego water. It is very
difficult controlling the ph during the mash. The single biggest improvement
in my beer came when I started hauling water to town from my house in the
mountains a couple of years ago. Problems are compounded because the quality
and mineral content of the San Diego water are not even constant through the
year. It can get marginally good when the amount coming from the Colorado
river is sufficiently low. Unlike Los Angeles which gets much of its water
from the Owens valley east of the Sierra we rely on everybody else's rejects.
There are places where it is worse e.g. Santa Barbara.

As long as I'm writing this I guess I'll get my two cents in about the
Old Columbia. It is the only brewpub here in San Diego and has been open
since last February. It has a resonable atmosphere but unfortunately caters
to a yuppie clientele. There are numerous pre-pro photo blowups on the wall
of old San Diego scenes including the crew at the old San Diego Brewery which
went under when prohibition came and a marvelous shot of the old City Brewery
building from the 1880's which was located at 5th and B. Unfortunately, the
beer quality has been compromised. There are too many waitresses and too
little malt and hops. The beer was excellant for a few weeks shortly after
opening but has never been better than C+/B- after that. It seems to me that
much of Southern California's craft beer tends to a sort of bland middle of
the road and much of it is priced too high. Hopefully when San Diego's
second brewpub is opened (within a few months) we can boast of a truly first
rate brewpub. It is the Old Mission which is to be housed in the same
building as the original Old Mission Brewery which was in existense from
1912-1916. The building is being restored to its original form. This
required approval from the San Diego voters last November as the original
cupola had been removed and a coastal height limitation prevented it from
being added back.

Richard Hager
Dept of Mathematical Sciences
San Diego State University

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