So, I feel somewhat limited because I can't make certain beverages at home (home distillation is illegal here in the US). I don't worry too much about this, though; I can easily rely on Milwaukee's own Great Lakes Distillery to do all that artisan distilling for me. Their products are beyond outstanding:
- Rehorst Vodka
- Rehorst Gin
- Amerique 1912 Absinthe - a Verde and a Rouge!
- Roaring Dan Rum
- Citrus & Honey Vodka
- Brandy - Grape, Cherry, and Pear varieties!
- Pumpkin Spirit - a seasonal treat!
Seriously, if you live anywhere near Milwaukee (and I mean within 2000 miles), you should check these guys out.
Since I can't distill legally, I find that making ice beer (or "eis-bier") is the next best thing.
Please note that making an ice beer is different from freeze distillation, nor is it the same as making beer concentrate. Freeze distillation involves removing at least 50% of the volume by removing ice crystals, whereas creating a concentrate is defined by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) as removing at least 25-33% of volume.
DISCLAIMER: FREEZE DISTILLATION AND MAKING BEER CONCENTRATE IS ILLEGAL WITHOUT PROPER LICENSING. I CANNOT AND DO NOT CONDONE THE PRACTICE OF FREEZE DISTILLATION OR CONCENTRATING ANY ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE NOR DO I RECOMMEND REMOVING MORE THAN 0.5% OF THE VOLUME OF ANY HOMEBREW.
ALSO NOTE: THESE LAWS DO NOT VARY FROM STATE TO STATE.
According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), ATF Ruling 94-3 states:
"Our examination has found that the volume removed as ice crystals does not exceed 0.5 percent of the volume of the beer entered into the process. ATF thus concludes that removal of up to 0.5 percent of the volume of beer through the removal of ice crystals is customary industry practice and results in a product which may be considered beer."
The classic example of an ice beer is the Eisbock. An Eisbock is simply a Doppelbock that has been frozen and the ice crystals removed. ABV ranges between 9-14%, as defined by the BJCP. Commercial eisbocks are generally concentrated anywhere from 7% to 33% (by volume), which actually makes them distillate products or beers from concentrate (if any dilution is made after freezing).
I recommend reading Michael Jackson's words on bocks and eisbocks. He describes the Eisbock like this:
"It has a distinct character that reminds me of coffee laced with whisky."
Let's make an Eisbock (2011 Upper Mississippi Mash-Out will feature a special "Eis-Anything" category):
[RECIPE] = [NB Doppelbock]
8 lbs German Munich malt
5 lbs German Vienna malt
2.5 lbs German Dark Munich malt
0.5 lbs Weyermann Caramunich II malt
1 oz Perle hops (60 min)
Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager yeast
Using a single infusion, mash at 152 degrees F for 60 minutes. Ferment at 50 degrees F for two weeks, lager at freezing temperature for ideally 6 months. Remove those ice crystals (but no more than 0.5% of the volume).
The Pseudo-Eisbock Alternative: You could design a doppelbock recipe to an original gravity of 1.096 (by bumping up the Munich malt to 9 lbs and the Vienna malt to 5.5 lbs) and end up with about 10% ABV, although the results may be quite different than what you'll get by icing. I recommend trying the direct comparison.