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What Is Ice Beer? And How Is Ice Beer Made?
The first insertion of this term is some kind of slush ice beer, right? But don’t worry, that’s not what ice beer means. Ice beer is simply another way of thinking while talking about brewing. The process used under ice beer brewing is called fractional freezing or freeze distillation.
What is ice beer? Ice beer is roughly a Canadian term for pale lager which has been through fractional freezing during production. The alcohol (ethanol) has a much lower freezing point than water, so when the ice is removed from the beer, the alcohol is said to increase.
What Exactly Is an Ice Beer?
Ice beer is actually just a beer that has been chilled until ice crystals are being formed. This became popular in the 1990s in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Japan. In Canada, the ice beer is also a term for a pale lager.
It is said that the cold temperature makes a chill haze and precipitation, among others, which are filtered out. The outcome should supposedly be a clear and clean tasting beer, a little stronger than if it was brewed regularly instead.
The water freeze at a higher temperature than the ethanol. This means, that the ice in the beer will contain water but not alcohol. When the ice is removed, there will be a more concentrated beer left.
This method can be used to make stronger beers. Some of these beers are the German Eisbock.
The German Eisbock has a pretty funny story. This type of beer should supposedly have been invented by a coincidence.
It all started in the local German Reichelbräu brewery (which is now part of Kulmbacher AG) when an apprentice was told to move a barrel off beer from the cold outside, into warmer parts.
This was a cold winter evening in 1890. The apprentice forgot all about the barrel, and the barrel was left outside in the cold.
The next morning much of the beer was frozen, and the ice inside the barrel had extended to a degree where the wooden staves eventually broke. The next day the barrel was found by the head brewer.
He found the barrel busted and a block of ice encapsulating a small amount of dark liquid. This liquid proved to be far tastier than expected. And this is how the Eisbock was invented, or at least it’s how the story is told in Kulmbach.
This story, however, is not to be found in any German brewing books of the time.
The Eisbock was put on the market and is still one of the commercially available beers of the style. But, whether this great story is true or not, we don’t know for sure.
The History About Ice Beer
As mentioned above, the ice beer was invented by brewing a strong and dark lager where the beer was frozen down to then be able to remove some of the ice to obtain a more concentrated beer.
This concentrates the aroma and the taste, and it also raises the alcohol content in the finished product. This can produce beer with an alcohol strength of up to 12 to 15 percent. In Northern America, water was added to lower the alcohol level.
Ice beer became current in Canada in 1989 by the microbrewery Niagara Falls Brewing Company. The brewers started the freezing method on strong, dark lagers. Here they maintained to increase the alcohol strength to around 8% ABV.
But, the large Canadian brewer, Molson, claimed to have made the first ice beer in Northern America with the introduction of Canadian Ice in April 1993.
Labatt, Molson’s competitor, claimed to have patented the ice beer process earlier. So, when Labatt introduced an ice beer in August 1993 it started the so-called ‘’Ice Beer Wars’’.
Is Ice Beer Good?
Most ice beers are good beers, and some are unfairly bad. Personally, I think that most ice beers are fine. Try not to buy them too cheaply, you may regret that. That said, it is possible to find some relatively cheap ice beers that are actually fine.
In the following, I will give you my review on a couple of ice beers and one Eisbock.
The Kulmbacher Eisbock
This beer has a rich amber color and beautiful clarity. As beautiful as the color is, as surprised you’re getting while taking the first sip. Also, you’ll find big raisin and plum aromas tucked within the prominent alcohol scent.
This beer is very drinkable because of the healthy dose of roasted, caramelized malted barley upfront, balanced shortly thereafter by a peppery hop character typical of the style.
The taste is finished with a sweetness of brown sugar. This beer has 9.2% AVB.
Busch Ice Beer
Busch Ice has a sweet and smooth finish. It also has a higher alcohol content than an average beer.
Busch is brewed with a mix of American-grown and imported hops and a combination of malt and corn to provide a pleasant balanced flavor and has 5.9% ABV.
Busch ice is a smooth-tasting ice beer that gives you a sharp taste and a cold sense which can be enjoyed at any occasion.
Molson Ice Beer
Molson Ice is produced by Molson-Coors Canada Inc. This is the Canadian division of the world’s fifth-largest brewing company, the Molson Coors Brewing Company.
Molson Ice is an award-winning brew, slowly fermented with Molson’s prize lager yeast and is then ice-filtered just before being bottled.
Molson Ice has a clear, golden amber appearance with nice foam and lacing. Its aromas are of sweet malt, and a hint of corn and hops. The taste is light on the carbonation, refreshing with a slightly dry, hoppy finish, and a sweet closure. This ice beer has 5.6% ABV.
These three beers are all, as you probably know, ice beers (one Eisbock). And all three beers are good and concentrated with ABV from 5.6% to 9.2%, which is typical for an ice beer.
How Is Ice Beer Made?
There are different ways to make an ice beer, and you can make ice beer out of any beer type. But, one thing is that you can make ice beer out of any beer type, another thing is that you shouldn’t do it out of any beer type.
Some beer types are better for this purpose than others. For example, a Helles beer. If you want a Hells beer with a higher ABV and concentrated flavors, just increase the poundage of grain in the recipe and choose more intense character, grains, and hops.
The best beer styles for an ice beer is the one who already lives at the upper limits of flavors and ABV.
Before you start, you have to consider a recipe. This following recipe will take statement in a Baltic porter. And again, this is not an unwritten recipe, this is just an example of how you could do it. Let’s begin, shall we?
Ice Beer Recipe
For this recipe, you’ll need around 15 pounds of base grains and around half a pound of each three crystal and chocolate malts.
To concentrate the flavors leave the base malt alone. However, keep an eye on the crystal and chocolate malts. The higher up the Lovibond scale you go, the more you’ll consider decreasing the amount you’re using or pivoting to a less-assertive substitute.
Lovibond is also known as degrees Lovibond or abbreviated as L. It is a scale for measuring color. To determine color the sample is placed in a tintometer.
The tintometer contains several numbered discs of tinted glass. The Lovibond color is the value assigned to the disc whose color matches most closely to the sample. But, it also comes in electronic test pens.