Beer Types – Ice Beer

Ice beer is a marketing term for pale lager beer brands which have undergone some degree of fractional freezing somewhat similar to the German Eisbock production method. These brands generally have higher alcohol content than typical beer and generally have a low price relative to their alcohol content. The process of “icing” beer involves lowering the temperature of a batch of beer until ice crystals form.Since alcohol has a much lower freezing point (-114 °C; -173.2 °F) than water and doesn’t form crystals, when the ice is filtered off, the alcohol concentration increases. The process is known as “fractional freezing” or “freeze distillation”.

Eisbock was developed in Germany during Oktoberfest celebrations with bock beers, which are strong lagers. A particularly cold year froze the beers and a new taste was noticed by the drinkers. However, in its current form, ice beer was developed from the fruit-juice industry which used to freeze orange juice concentrate in order to reduce shipping costs. The term “ice beer” (in name) was introduced in Canada by Molson. The first ice beer marketed in North America was Canadian Ice (now known as Molson Ice), which was introduced by Molson in April 1993,although the process was patented earlier by Molson’s competitor, Labatt, instigating the so-called “Ice Beer Wars” of the 1990s. By August 1993, both Molson and Labatt had introduced ice beer products in Canada, with Labatt having captured a 10% market share.  These ice beers are brewed and filtered at sub-freezing temperatures, thus producing ice crystals and raising the resulting alcohol content. Labatt’s Maximum Ice, for example, rates 7.1% alcohol by volume. The freezing of beer allowed the removal of protein-polyphenol compounds, creating a smoother, more colloidally stable beer, and avoiding long aging time.

The ice beers are typically known for their high alcohol-to-dollar ratio. In some areas, a substantial number of ice beer products are considered to often be bought by “street drunks”, and are prohibited for sale. Other than Molson Ice, Labatt Ice & Labatt Maximum Ice other breweries also have ice beers like : Moosehead Dry Ice, Busch Ice, Polar Ice etc.

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