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

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

  1. Hardcore

    Hardcore Initiate (0) Jun 24, 2012 Hawaii

    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) Oct 30, 2010 Florida

    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. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,257) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    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 Poo-Bah (5,159) Feb 20, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    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 Defender (637) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Freezing is easy. I presume getting the ice/water out of the beer is not.
  6. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,346) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    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 Meyvn (1,248) Feb 27, 2009 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    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 Initiate (0) Feb 14, 2009 Iowa

    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 Initiate (0) Mar 29, 2004 Michigan

    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 Meyvn (1,143) Feb 19, 2008 New York
    Beer Trader

    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. Providence

    Providence Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island

    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 Initiate (0) Jun 21, 2009 Virginia

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

    millertime416 Initiate (0) Feb 14, 2009 Iowa

    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. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,257) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    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 -
  15. NickMunford

    NickMunford Savant (978) Oct 2, 2006 Wyoming

  16. BearsOnAcid

    BearsOnAcid Savant (968) Mar 17, 2009 Washington
    Beer Trader

    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. PangaeaBeerFood

    PangaeaBeerFood Initiate (0) Nov 30, 2008 New York

    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 Aspirant (267) Oct 30, 2007 Ohio

  19. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Aspirant (272) Jan 13, 2006 New Mexico

    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
  20. LeRose

    LeRose Meyvn (1,263) Nov 24, 2011 Massachusetts
    Premium Member

    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 Initiate (0) Feb 14, 2009 Iowa

    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 Champion (856) Oct 17, 2012 Texas

    Back in my BMC days I left numerous beers in my freezer just a bit too long on accident. Does that count?
  23. ericj551

    ericj551 Initiate (0) Apr 29, 2004 Alberta (Canada)

    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 Initiate (0) Feb 14, 2009 Iowa

    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. nuggetman

    nuggetman Initiate (0) Jul 13, 2011 Massachusetts

    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 Zealot (525) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

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

    LeRose Meyvn (1,263) Nov 24, 2011 Massachusetts
    Premium Member

    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 Initiate (0) Jun 24, 2012 Hawaii

    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.
  29. Brewbuzzard

    Brewbuzzard Initiate (113) Dec 23, 2015 Texas

    I'm using two 3 gal kegs freeze a couple hours then push to the empty keg and repeat. You want to trap as little beer in the ice as posible.
  30. CADETS3

    CADETS3 Aspirant (235) Dec 3, 2014 Texas

    I made an ICE beer out of a Barleywine recipe i put together. It was a 2.5 gallon batch and yielded about 3 750mL bottles that i filled up into crown royal bottles. The last one was a bit watered down but it's still great. It definitely is not very efficient what so ever. Also, another thing to note is that you do not want to use very much hops. I used about 3 grams in my 2.5 gallon batch. My friends and have enjoyed almost 1 full bottle thus far, but I believe this will only be better with age.
  31. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,139) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
    Beer Trader

  32. stealth

    stealth Zealot (508) Dec 16, 2011 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    I poured my brew into a big bowl at 0 degrees and kept skimming off the surface ice that formed with a steel mesh strainer and would give it a shake to get any beer to drop out, then dump the ice. Very labor intensive and time consuming, but I reduced 20oz of beer to ~8oz at the end, and it would not freeze at 0 degrees any longer.
    GormBrewhouse and SFACRKnight like this.
  33. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (736) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    I've made the same mistake several times...usually in the Fall when the kegerator is still turned up for Summer heat ...Best session beers ever! :slight_smile:
  34. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (387) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    i've seen it done.
    gentle freezing vs rapid freezing
  35. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,695) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Premium Member

    I just reviewed that BBV podcast. James quotes a fed saying it is legal for homebrewers to freeze concentrate (eis) beer. Check with your locals if you are really concerned about legality.

    I recommend not doing it because (1) it seems like it could amplify imperfections in your beer beer (eis fusel, anyone) (2) I can't think of an easy way to do it that doesn't expose your beer to oxygen, (3) it just seems like an extra step-PITA-process to screw up, and (4) less beer.

    With that in mind, I'd wait for that happy accident moment - a few hours before your guests are scheduled to arrive for a tasting of the remaining half gallon of your 50-point, flawless doppelbock, you realize that your keezer thermostat broke and the keg contents are frozen. Now is the time to invert your keg over a funnel draining into your fancy growler bottle. Be sure to do this in a secure location so your cats don't tip it over. Then dust off your shot glass collection so that when your guests arrive, you can give everyone a 1-oz pour.
  36. SportsandJorts

    SportsandJorts Meyvn (1,324) Nov 17, 2012 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    In this process now. Does the ice you remove come out pretty clear? Mine is an old ale and the ice I skim off with the strainer still has quite a bit of color.
  37. MostlyNorwegian

    MostlyNorwegian Zealot (548) Feb 5, 2013 Illinois

    It depends on how much you want to concentrate what you have. I usually break it down a bit and filter the ice with a salad spinner until a decent amount of the color in the ice has been reduced. I guess in terms of coloring and shading, that'd be 20%.
    stealth likes this.
  38. stealth

    stealth Zealot (508) Dec 16, 2011 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    As it gets colder it gets a bit tougher to get 'clear ice' like I do right away at the beginning. At that point I do sort of what MN just said above me - I will put the ice in a fine mesh strainer and tap it to draw moisture out, or let it melt a bit and slosh it around the strainer to draw the alcohol out. The remaining ice tends to be pretty 'white' then. I add that solution pulled out back to the main beer then and repeat. It's a fucking arduous process, to be honest.
    SportsandJorts likes this.