Monday, November 25, 2013

Bourbon Style Eise (Ice) Beer at 30% ABV

Iced Beer is not a new style, but it is to me. I've just dived into this idea of freezing out the water and concentrating the alcohol and beer. Why not take this and have some fun with it? Like, make a ICE Rum, or a concentrated beer that tastes like a Barrel Aged Bourbon, right? I have heard of double and triple freezing. Can I do this? The answer is yes, yes I can.

Iced Beer means that the beer has undergone some degree of fractional freezing somewhat similar to the German Eis bock. These brands generally have higher alcohol content than typical beer. Fractional freezing is used in a process to separate substances with different melting points such as water and alcohol's melting points.

First and foremost, there's always someone that calls this illegal distillation. That is wrong, this is concentration through freezing. Distillation methods that are illegal requires fire, alcohol to be converted to a gas to separate it from the "beer," then converted back to a liquid to form a pure alcohol. The question has already been run by ATF (Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms), which said that freeze concentration is not distillation and that there are no laws against it. So, if you still think this is illegal, call ATF yourself and don't bother writing on this blog that it's illegal.

My first attempt to ice a beer was on a Wee Heavy at 10% ABV aged on wood. In addition, it was too simple of a recipe to win any competitions, which by the way didn't win a darn thing. However, the simple recipe is perfect for an Ice Beer. The only problem with a 10% beer is that it first has a "hot alcohol" bite like nail polish remover. It takes a while to mellow out. It is my opinion that anything over 10% ABV will require time.

When I first made the beer,  I let it sit for a year and it mellowed down. I took a gallon of the Wee Heavy and froze it solid. I turned the frozen beer upside down and within about 30-60 minutes I had a quarter gallon of what I believe to be 25-35% ABV! When Iced, the beer appeared to lose sweetness and tended to be dry, but perfect for Ice Beer.

My friends and I took our first sip of my Ice Beer. Holy crap it tasted awesome! It was like sipping on a nice Bourbon, seriously. My friends and I sat around and contemplated how we could make more and bottle it.

Think about ice beer vs. distillation this way: In distillation, you get a raw alcohol that has to be aged in a barrel to gain some flavor, which quite frankly, tastes like charred wood. Then water is added to bring down the ABV. On the other hand, Ice Beer has flavor built into it and unlike Distilled Spirits is ready to drink much sooner and tastes great.

My next attempt will be a Rum made with brown sugar.

Here is my original recipe:

09-E  Scottish and Irish Ale, Strong Scotch Ale (Wee Heavy)
Min OG:  1.070   Max OG:  1.130
Min IBU:    17   Max IBU:    35
Min Clr:    14   Max Clr:    25  Color in SRM, Lovibond

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal):          6.00    Wort Size (Gal):    6.00
Total Grain (Lbs):       17.60
Anticipated OG:          1.091    Plato:             21.78
Anticipated SRM:        18.7
Anticipated IBU:          25.7
Brewhouse Efficiency:   82 %
Wort Boil Time:            90    Minutes
Additional Boil:            Take one gallon of the wort and boil until close to a syrup consistency.

Pre-Boil Amounts

Evaporation Rate:      15.00    Percent Per Hour
Pre-Boil Wort Size:   10.91    Gal
Pre-Boil Gravity:      1.050    SG          12.40  Plato


   %     Amount     Name                          Origin        Potential SRM
 96.6    17.00 lbs. Pale Malt (Maris Otter)       UK             1.038      4
  3.4     0.60 lbs. Roasted Barley                     USA            1.033    300

   Amount     Name                              Form    Alpha  IBU  Boil Time
  1.75 oz.    Fuggle                            Whole    4.75  25.7  60 min.

WYeast 1728 Scotish Ale

Water Profile
Profile:           Reverse Osmosis
pH: 5.2

Mash-out Rest Temp :         158  Time:  60
Sparge Temp :                     170  Time:  30

Update 5/1/14:
I have made a second batch of this Bourbon Style Eise Beer and will send the beer to a lab to test the ABV within a couple days.

First, I tried freezing a 5 gallon bucket, which turned out to be a challenge. The middle didn't want to freeze and the beer tended to concentrate in the remaining liquid. I chopped up the ice on sides of the buck allowing a more uniform freeze, but it was still a challenge. Never got more than a stiff slushy beer. Some of it froze hard, but it's not what I wanted. I suggest freezing in gallon containers, which will make it freeze easier and quicker.

Second, I put 20 wood cubes in the beer for a week prior to freezing. I suggest cutting that back to 5 to 8 Cubes. I think 20 was a but too much. Upon tasting I realized that the wood is a bit harsh tasting at first and will require several months to mellow out. This was true for my last beer also.

Third, I ended up with a little over a gallon after the first freeze. I was able to freeze the beer a second time concentrating the alcohol and flavors. I moved the beer to two containers and completed second freeze. It took several days due to the anti-freezing agent of the alcohol. However, it finally froze a cap at the top and I separated it out.

Fourth, I had to filter the beer due to a high amount of particulate matter in the beer. The beer came out beautifully clear and dark ruby red. 

My filter costs pennies and works great. I turn a Litre bottle upside down, cut off the bottom of the bottle. I take a normal paper towel and fold it into a one inch strip, then keep folding in one in increments until it reaches the other side of the towel. Next I move to one of the ends and start rolling the long one inch strip. I take the one inch wide rolled up paper towel and stuff it in the pouring spout of the litre bottle. You typically have to cut off a couple inches off the end and roll it back up to fit, but it should fit snugly in the spout. I turn the spout downwards and pour the beer into the container. It's slow and can take several hours, sometimes a whole day depending on several factors, but works great. 

Overall, it tastes damn strong. I am guessing around 30% ABV. I am sending a sample to a Lab for testing and will post it for your review when I get the results.

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