Thus when the email came in from "brewmasterduchow" (who?) with no subject line (warning!) I was a bit skeptical. But the interesting thing about Gmail is that it has this very brief preview of the email; in this case, it only showed 13 words. One of those words was "beer" (not too surprising, a lot of spam is targeted to the address it is sent to), another of those words was "ice." And, together those words formed the magic phrase "ice beer."
This is probably a peek into my past that I shouldn't let you have; you may think less of me after this. But I came of (drinking) age in the era of the ice beer, so I have a special fondness for them. Everything was iced. Icehouse had just been released. Milwaukee's Best was iced. Heck, this was a time when my favorite beer in the world was Bud Ice. For my (ahem) "21st" birthday, my next door neighbor had bought a case (30 pack) of Keystone Ice. (note: neither MBR nor anyone affiliated with MBR endorses underage drinking, not that we've done anything like that, or anything; we also do not endorse drinking 30 Keystone Ice in one evening).
Icing beer is this magic process whereby liquid theories are put to test. The basic idea is this: water freezes at 32 degrees farenheit, however, alcohol freezes at a temperature much lower than that. So, if beer is brought to 32 degrees or lower, the non-alcohol part of the beer (the water) will freeze. The ice can be removed, usually through a filtration system, and leaves a drinkable liquid that is a much higher concentration of alcohol and a greater concentration of malt.
But, icing beer is not just for crappy American lagers to punch up their alcohol by one half of one percent. An entire style of beer exists that takes advantage of the icing process to accentuate the alcohol esters and smooth out the body. Of course, two styles immediately jump to mind that are known for the estery flavors and smooth bodies: bocks and barley wines. Given the warm fermentation of a barley wine, they are not typically iced (it would kill the yeasts that remain active and allow the style to age so well). However, bocks, a high-alcohol, estery, smooth, cold-fermentation lager, are iced frequently; so frequently that a whole style, the eisbock, has been recognized.
Well, it stands to reason that if bocks can be iced to great success, other styles can be as well. As mentioned earlier, barley wines would be a good example, except that aging really brings out the best in a barley wine and the icing process would kill the yeast. However, there is another high-alcohol ale style that is best consumed fresh: the India Pale Ale. While we are not aware of other IPAs that have been iced, one has been on tap since Thursday, January 25th at The Grumpy Troll over in Mount Horeb, WI. And, this brings us back that email that we received from "brewmasterduchow."
Mark Duchow (aka "The Captain") is the brewmaster for The Grumpy Troll, a brewpub in Mount Horeb, WI.
A few months ago Doug and I were talking about Ice Beer in the brewery over a couple beers. Doug loves ice bocks, and the Maggie Imperial IPA, his thought was to Ice the Maggie. "BRILLIANT!" we said.And, thus, the idea for the Iced Maggie was formed. However, as we've talked about in the past, small breweries do not often have access to high-level equipment. And, in this case, the problem was that the chiller that The Grumpy Troll uses would not cool the Maggie under 25 degrees. The Maggie, already a beer of moderate strength, would not freeze at 25 degrees, it just sort of turned to slush.
What I needed was a place that was much cooler than 25 degrees. Well Canada stepped in and sent Wisconsin a bunch of cold, no F-ing cold air, and yesterday's high temperature was 0, yes I said zero, 25 degrees colder than I could drop the chiller! So I kegged up the beer and set it out on the loading dock, BRILLIANT!Thanks to the cold weather we've been having lately, The Grumpy Troll successfully created an IPA-cicle. There is some debate as to what happened next. The problem is thus: there is some question as to the "legality" of ice distilling beer in the state of Wisconsin. If you were to ask Brewmaster Duchow, The Captain, he will insist that he did not ice-distill the Maggie, merely that the Maggie is "freeze cured" a process that will provide many of the same benefits but will not impact alcohol levels.
MBR will be taking a field trip to The Grumpy Troll on Saturday, February 9th at 2pm for the purpose of testing this freeze cured beer. Come on out and meet us for a drink. For those interested, The Grumpy Troll also gets The Big Ten Network, so you can stick around and watch the Badgers avenge their loss to the Boilermakers later that evening.