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Any ever try making their own eisbock or "ice beer?"

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Hardcore, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. Hardcore

    Hardcore Savant (315) Hawaii Jun 24, 2012

    Recently read about the process in which these beers are made. I'm sure it's not as easy as putting your beer in a freezer, but is it too complicated to try at home?
  2. BigGene

    BigGene Initiate (0) Florida Oct 30, 2010

    I believe it is illegal to brew beer with this method in the US. That is why no American Craft brewer has jumped on the BrewDog bandwagon. I could be wrong but I'm too lazy to Google it.
  3. It is illegal in the US, but that hasn't stopped some craft breweries from doing it (usually the beer is not shipped out of state). Ramstein in NJ is pretty open about theirs. See also Ramstein Unveils Their 2010 Eisbock

    Phila. area beer writer "Joe Sixpack" had a good column on it a few years back- Ice bock: Frozen out in the U.S.A.

    I think the OP, however, is asking about people making their own at home using homebrew or commercially available standard-brewed beer..
    gueuzehead likes this.
  4. stakem

    stakem Poobah (1,015) Pennsylvania Feb 20, 2009 Verified

    It actually is just as easy as putting your beer in the freezer. However, there is a significant amount of waste that takes place. To give you a rough estimation, starting with 2.5 gallons of homebrew will yield less than a six pack of eisbier.

    When I did it, I started with 3 gallons of barleywine and double-iced it. My final yield was 3 full 7oz bottles and 1 partial. I have no idea how to calculate its final abv but it is huge.

    If you care, I can go into further detail about the process. Shoot me a beer mail.
  5. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Advocate (570) Colorado Dec 9, 2011 Verified

    Freezing is easy. I presume getting the ice/water out of the beer is not.
  6. I have not, but know one that have.

    You need a convenient way to remove the ice and let the liquid stay behind. On the homebrew scale that is done in a Corny keg that lets you open the lid on top to remove the ice with a strainer.
  7. kawilliams81

    kawilliams81 Advocate (640) Illinois Feb 27, 2009 Verified

    I did a few years ago with (don't remember what beer) when I first heard about TNP & STB. Poured a bottle of beer in a sandwich size tuperwear container, put in the freezer for a few hours, and you get about a shot of "eisbock" out of it. Would not suggest this method.
  8. millertime416

    millertime416 Savant (270) Iowa Feb 14, 2009

    It's illegal for commercial breweries but not homebrewers (this was actually a contentious issue on homebrew forums for a long time but seems to have been settled a few years ago). There is a basic brewing video available somewhere online that talks about how to do this.

    I've actually done this a few times. Just put the beer in plastic water jugs, freeze in a deep-freeze, invert and let it drip for a few hours. You can repeat the process multiple times to increase the ABV. If you want to get above 30% or so you can pack the jugs in a cooler with dry-ice, once they stop freezing in the deep freeze. I made a 38% IPA a few months ago doing this (turned out spectacular).
  9. Biffster

    Biffster Savant (375) Michigan Mar 29, 2004

    I have done it with a couple of cornys. I put the base beer in a corny, hit it with CO2 to purge only (I didnt carbonate it), and SLOWLY dropped the temperature. I had read that the slower you do it, the less beer gets trapped in the ice. Then I plumbed a line from out to in on a second corny and sent it over. Because it was in the kegs, I never knew the final volume and therefore could never calculate the FG.

    One other point - be careful of the base beer you use. Concentrating the alcohol and flavors will also concentrate the fusels and other nasties. I suspect that is why it has been so enduring as a technique with nice clean bocks.
  10. DmanGTR

    DmanGTR Advocate (555) Florida Feb 19, 2008 Verified

    I've done it with an English style barleywine to make an "eis-barleywine". I separated my beer into quart sized soup containers, froze them, then dumped the ice/beer mix over a sterilized strainer and let the beer drain into the carboy, which brought my pre-freeze OG/FG of 1.110/1.029 (abv 10.6%) to a post-freeze FG of 1.060, and an end volume that is exactly half that of the original volume. Theoretically, that should double my abv to 21.2%. Of course, I don't have the ability to determine the exact ETOH percentage, but it should be around that value.
  11. Kudos to you for experimenting. An "Esi-barleywine" is probably the last type of beer I would ever want to drink, ha ha, but I think it's awesome when homebrewers push the envelope. Cheers!
    DmanGTR likes this.
  12. cmmcdonn

    cmmcdonn Savant (400) Virginia Jun 21, 2009

    If the process mentioned is illegal for commercial breweries, how does this process differ from what HOTD did with dave?
  13. millertime416

    millertime416 Savant (270) Iowa Feb 14, 2009

    My bad, I take that back. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure it's legal for US brewers as well (though I remember hearing there may be tax issues related to it.) I think the ice adjuncts (Natty Ice, Bud Ice, etc.) are made by freeze concentrating as well.
  14. They would probably need to have distillers license beside a brewers license, the resulting product could not be label as a "malt beverage" and they would be taxed at the higher "spirits" Federal Excise Tax rate. Imported products such as those from Brewdog like Sink the Bismarck, for instance, are classified as "699-OTHER SPECIALTIES & PROPRIETARIES - Distilled Spirits".

    Those "ice" beers are legal because they meet the TTB's requirements that "Not more than 0.5% of beer can be removed as ice crystals". See the entire ruling at ATF Ruling 94-3

    More info re: US legality, in the link I posted above - http://www.joesixpack.net/columnArchives/2010/012910.htm
  15. djaeon

    djaeon Champion (755) California Oct 2, 2006

  16. BearsOnAcid

    BearsOnAcid Advocate (735) Massachusetts Mar 17, 2009 Verified

    Siphon a beer into a pancake syrup bottle and freeze some of it. Squeeze out the liquid into your glass and drink it. Get fuckin wasted bro
    beastmammoth and domtronzero like this.
  17. Making Eisbocks is absolutely legal in the US. It was once considered a form of distillation, but as of a few years back, was definitionally changed to "freeze concentration", to avoid legal issues. I don't think there are legal limits on the alcohol content either. There are plenty of American breweries who do it, albeit in small batches:

    I've done it myself as a homebrewer, though it is not as easy as it sounds. Because the alcohol and other components of the beer are evenly integrated, the beer freezes into a sort of slushy texture that makes it very difficult to separate the alcohol and makes the whole process, overall, very wasteful. You might start with 5 gallons of beer at 5% ABV, concentrate it to 2.5 gallons and think it's 10% ABV, but in actuality you're likely to have left lots of booze and goodness behind that'll get dumped down the drain.

    The easiest and most efficient way I've done it is in bulk. The more liquid you have, the easier it becomes. If you put a large 5-10 gallon bucket of beer into a freezer, and check on it routinely as the temperature drops, you'll notice the ice crystal starting to form around the edges first (as they have immediate contact with the colder ambient temperature). If you get it at this partially-frozen point and siphon the beer from the thawed center, it works fairly well. Maybe others have a better process.
  18. headbucket

    headbucket Savant (285) Ohio Oct 30, 2007

  19. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Savant (450) New Mexico Jan 13, 2006

    I've done it accidentally once with wonderful results. Somehow the thermostat in my kegerator got jacked up for a week and froze a couple of cornies of homebrew, a porter and a red ale. The beer still flowed so I didn't think anything about it. The flavors got very intense (very good) and suddenly I was shitfaced after a pint of either of them. When I finished the kegs I realized that they were both full of ice so I had probably doubled the ABV
    Beerontwowheels likes this.
  20. LeRose

    LeRose Advocate (650) Massachusetts Nov 24, 2011 Verified

    Interesting reading here. I have worked with commercial scale freeze concentration equipment - if the technology is the same? Well, anybody doing it commercially, kudos to them. It is mega-expensive (capital and operating cost), complicated, and not a very easy process to control. I'm thinking somebody must have discovered a more economical and easier way to do this for beer. If anybody finds a description of the commercial process, would like to read that. I will do some poking around and do the same.

    Carry on...
  21. millertime416

    millertime416 Savant (270) Iowa Feb 14, 2009

    Not a description of the commercial process necessarily, but here's a video showing how it's done at Brewdog for TNP and STB.

  22. ilikebeer03

    ilikebeer03 Savant (440) Texas Oct 17, 2012

    Back in my BMC days I left numerous beers in my freezer just a bit too long on accident. Does that count?
  23. I guess this is more of a homebrew forum question, but how would one measure the change in alcohol in an ice distilled beer? Would it be as simple checking the gravity before hand and after and assuming the increase in sugar mirrors the increase in alcohol? For example 1.010 to 1.020 would be doubling the alcohol? I guess because alcohol is lighter than water this calculation probably wouldn't be that simple.
  24. millertime416

    millertime416 Savant (270) Iowa Feb 14, 2009

    I estimated the ABV somewhat unscientifically. The freezing point of an alcoholic liquid is theoretically a function of abv and dissolved solids. So I made up various abv concentrations (from 30-45%) of Everclear, sugar, and water, which had the same gravity of my freeze-distilled beer. I then packed them in dry ice along with a sample of the concentrated beer (which had stopped freezing in the dry-ice cooler), and I selected the concentration that no longer froze. So theoretically the 38% I came up with was the lower bound for the abv. Not sure how accurate this method is, but I'm guessing its close.
  25. If you do it. Be aware of your final gravity before putting it into the freezer because it will raise a lot and become viscous if you start out with a high gravity beer! I think it was brushed over above but I tried with with a barleywine that had a fg of 1.032 and the results were great, but if you had more than a tasting you would get type 2 diabetes for sure! Never checked the gravity after freezing, but it's high. Stashed a bottle in the basement to age for a few decades to see what happens!
  26. patto1ro

    patto1ro Advocate (510) Netherlands Apr 26, 2004

    My son gave it a go with some indutrial Pils. The resulat wasn't very pleasant.
  27. LeRose

    LeRose Advocate (650) Massachusetts Nov 24, 2011 Verified

    Thanks for sharing.

    So - IBC's (individual bulk containers) in a freezer truck. We were doing it in a continuous flow process at 45 GPM - that is the complication - continuous formation/removal of ice crystals and collecting the concentrated bit... I forget the scale of the stuff I work on sometimes! Do more volume in a day than some breweries do in a year (and no I don't work in a BMC..). He's talking about multiple freezes, so they must freeze, the ice floats, they decant off the bottom, then drop the temp and repeat. Must be some decent experimentation needed to get the times and temperatures right so you get a good separation.
  28. Hardcore

    Hardcore Savant (315) Hawaii Jun 24, 2012

    That's some great info. I might just play around with a cocktail shaker and try freezing various beers to see what the different results are.