EISBOCK

AKA:
G'frornes

Pronunciation guide for English-speakers:
Pronounce it as if it were the English word "ice-bock"

Definition:
Eisbock is an "ice strong beer," wich sounds both forbidding and inviting. It has a forbidding ring, because it conjures up i
mages of frigid temperatures and ice and snow. Yet, it comes across as inviting, too, because it also conjures up images of winter's antidote: A warming, nourishing, and comforting brew, one that is rich, strong, and rewarding. Both aspects of the Eisbock are, of course, true. Icebocks rank among the world's most potent brews. They are true winter lagers. They gain their strength from being frozen near the end of their maturation period. Because water freezes before alcohol, the chilled brew can be drained off the ice crystals that form in the tank. During this process, the beer loses about 7 to 10% of its water content. As a result, the alcohol concentration in the beer increases, usually to about 10% by volume, about twice as much as the 4.5 to 5.5% of a regular German lager. As members of the Bockbier family, Eisbocks have all the characteristics of a typical strong beer, only more so. They are much maltier and smoother even than the Dopplebocks.

In an Eisbock, you can taste the alcohol, but as a rounded fiery afterglow, not as a harsh, up-front assault on the palate. The mystique of the Eisbock is probably uniquely exemplified by the G'frorns, brewed in the northern Bavarian Kulmbacher AG, the reputed brewery of origin of the Eisbock style. The alcohol-by-volume level of this brew reaches approximately 10%. A rich Eisbock is best sipped like a Sherry, Port, or Madeira; it is never guzzled. Eisbock can be made as a barley-based lager, like the Reichelbräu G'frorns, or as a wheat-based ale, called Weizeneisbock. The Weizeneisbock most readily available in North America is the Schneider Aventinus Weizeneisbock, whihc is brewed and then frozen to a strength of 12% alcohol by volume.

The First Eisbock Was an Accident
Though some ice beer advertisements insinuate otherwise, the freezing process for beer was not invented in Canada, but in Germany. It is not entirely clear, however, where and when the Eisbock originated, but there is one persistent legend that places the invention into the Reichelbräu brew yard in the city of Kulmbach, at around 1890. The legend may not be true, but it sounds plausible. Besides, it is a good yarn!

According to that (tall?) tale, on a wintery day, a brewery lad had been instructed by the brewmaster to roll the casks of finished Bockbier from the brewery yard back into the cellar and then close shop. But after a long day of toil in front of the mash tun the lad was just too tired in the evening to carry out his master's orders. Instead, he figured that there would be no harm in leaving them outside until morning.

That night, however, turned out to be bitter cold, and the beer inside the casks froze solid. By the time the brew crew returned the following morning, the staves of the casks had burst open. It appeared to all that the entire lot of wonderful Bockbier had been ruined. As the brewers inspected the frozen brew more closely, they discovered that a small pool of murky, brownish liquid had collected at the very center of each cask.

The brewers were unaware that alcohol has a much lower freezing point than water, and that it became concentrated as the beer froze in the casks from the outside in. As the water froze, the alcohol also transported with it all the essence of the Bockbier's malty flavor to the center.

The irate brewmaster, bent on meting out severe punishment, ordered the hapless lad to crack open the icy casks and drink the awful brownish stuff. The frightened lad, of course, did as he was told, taking mere tentative sips at first, but then imbibing with ever increasing gusto. In the center of each cask-size lump of ice was the most delicious, malty-sweet, and heavy beer imaginable. Punishment, indeed! The lad was the first human ever to taste...Eisbock; and being a kind and generous sort, he let the others share in his "punishment."

Subsequently, the Kulmbach brewers made it a practice, during severe cold spells, to roll out into the open a few casks of Bockbier or Doppelbock, leave them overnight, and collect the cold nectar in the center, the essence of Bock, as a heart-warming sipping beer. Thus was born, allegedly, the Eisbock, a beer style that is still made today according to the principles that operated on that bitter cold wintry night in Kulmbach. In Kulmbach, the Reichelbräu eventually became part of the Kulmbacher AG brew conglomerate, and the original Eisbock is now called G'frorns — local vernacular for "something frozen."

 

 

 

 

 

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