Friday, July 31, 2009

Ice Beer

Well, I finally finished the "Homemalted" Pale Ale, so last night before bed I decided to transfer my Toasted Lager into the keg with hopes of getting a taste this weekend.

I started by sanitizing my cornelius keg and some plastic tubing for the transfer, and cleaning the kegorator lines. Then I took the container of lager out (I lager my beers in the back of the kegorator), opened it up, and to my surprise found that it was partially frozen! I really do have the coldest beer in town! But is that a good thing? I mean, now what am I supposed to do with this beer ice?

In all actuality, this is a scenario that I have always hoped to some day experiment with. You see, allowing your lager-style beer to partially freeze is not a bad thing in any way. Partial freezing is a technique that can be manipulated in a couple of different ways to produce very beneficial results in your final product.

First, there is a practice called "Ice Stabilization." This is a process where the brewer allows a small amount of ice particles to form in the beer (usually around 5%), and then skims them off before bringing the beer back above the freezing point. The ice particles will contain mostly water, which raises the alcohol level of the beer slightly. Also, I have read that this technique also appears to aid considerably in clarification. The partial freezing seems to trap haze-forming particulates and assist in the fining process of the beer. This, in turn, will obviously make the beer "smoother" tasting, with much more flavor stability. Not bad, right?

Secondly, there is a process called "Ice Distilling." For this procedure, much larger amounts of beer are allowed to freeze and are then removed, drastically increasing the alcohol content of the brew and completely changing the flavor profile. Eisbock beer is the most famous example of this method of brewing. Eisbock is basically a traditional German Doppelbock that has been ice distilled, increasing its ABV to anywhere from 9% to 15%, and concentrating its flavor incredibly.

And lastly, I have even seen a few people who claim that they accidentally froze their beer completely, and then after thawing and kegging experienced dramatically better beer - smoother flavor, better head retention, etc. There are a few guesses I could give as to why this might work, but I think mostly it has to do with clarification and the fact that you have effectively killed off every yeast particle.

In any case, I decided to let my beer thaw overnight and in the morning it still had a few small pieces of ice floating on top. I removed them with a sanitized strainer and proceeded to transfer the beer into the keg. I can't wait to see how it comes out! This will be my first actual experience with ice beer so, needless to say, I'm very excited.

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